Ten years ago, “Affliction, Endocrine … Vertigo” was released; one of the finest post metal albums to have ever come out of Europe. The first thing to take of their C R O W N‘s sophomore record “Natron” is that France seems to have found a worthy successor toOvermars in the duo now turned trio with the addition of Zatokrev‘sFrederik Rotter. “Two men and a drum machine” are now “three men and a drum machine”.
With a third guitar, the band goes beyond a mere reinforcement of the heavy as fuck barrage of distorted guitar they had used so well in “Psychurgy”. In fact, “Natron” shows the widest songwriting range and best production of the band’s career thus far. That’s not to say we don’t get to be hit in the face with that lovely wall of sound, far from it as displayed by the sheer heaviness of “The Words You Speak Are Not Your Own” and the fury of “Wings Beating Over Heaven”, the latter of which features guest vocals from Nihill‘s Michiel Eikenaar and Alcest‘s Neige.
Despite the familiarities, “Natron” definitely sees an evolution for the better in songwriting. The Godfleshian drums feel way tighter and the band seems more comfortable trying out new stuff, even if the steps are carefully taken and well measured, as they are during the mechanical dirge supplemented by a sample of William S. Burroughs‘s “Dinosaurs” of (for all practical purposes) album closer “Tension Of Duality” – “Flames”, the actual closer, feels more like an outro. The good news is that it works; it does so for the small steps as well as when the departure is even more drastic, as seen in “Fossils”, a song featuring Kvohst‘s singing and, as far as we’re concerned, reeking more of Beastmilk‘s awesomeness than any of the Grave Pleasures‘ songs so far released.
It might not yet reach the level of the aforementioned “Affliction, Endocrine … Vertigo”, but “Natron” comes as close as any other continental record of the genre released in the meantime. Besides, “Fossils” is an amazing song and we could honestly hear “Wings Beating Over Heaven” for hours on end, if only for how fucking good Eikenaar‘s vicious screams work with the instrumental and in contrast with the clean vocals.