Svart Crown- Abreaction (Century Media)

French black/death with a sharper bite than a nice blue cheese...

It’s no secret that over the last 20 years, France has become a hub for talented and inventive extreme metal bands. From the likes of Blut Aus Nord to Deathspell Omega and Benighted, there’s no shortage of quality aural filth coming out of the country at the minute and I don my proverbial beret at them. One such group is black/death collective Svart Crown, hailing from the southern region of Nice, and are anything but that (sorry). Their 2014 album Profane turned some heads in the underground and made them a band worth keeping an eye on for greater things to come. Abreaction continues this trend, being another solid outing for the band. 

The first thing immediately noticable about this album is the emphasis put on atmosphere. Opening track Golden Sacrament starts off slow, quietly building it’s malevolent atmosphere and it’s not until the 3:50 mark that we see the buildup pay off with a massive stomping mid-tempo riff. It doesn’t stay around for long however, tension eases before fading into silence. This is when second track, Carcosa comes from out of nowhere to blindside you with its death/black fury. There’s blasting and riffs galore that call to mind Behemoth or Nile at their most furious. These two tracks manage to succinctly demonstrate Abreaction’s greatest strength: dynamics in songwriting. Many black/death bands tend to approach their music at an unrelenting pace and never slow down. While this is often intentional, it’s refreshing to hear a band in this genre that knows that there can be as much power in understatement as overstatement. 

You can see this diversity in song-writing on display throughout the album; Khimba Rites stays true to the ritualistic connotations of the title with tribal drumming, chants and hypnotic riffs. Elsewhere, Transsubstantiation contains a closing passage with vocal lines that sound uncannily like their fellow countrymen Gojira

While the array of material on this album is commendable, at close to an hour long there’s an unavoidable sense of fatigue that sets in trying to sit through this in one go. There’s not one, but two superfluous instrumental tracks here, Tentacion and Lwas. While the latter serves as an intro to penultimate track Nganda, the former could have easily been cut along with some excess flab among the other existing tracks. 

Gripes aside, Svart Crown is proving to be one of the rising malevolent forces set to dominate the black/death scene. Abreaction is another fine addition to their discography and well worth your time.