The humble drum machine may be one of the most divisive aspects of modern metal music. When utilized well the caustic, detached nature of programmed drums can be an effective vehicle to express menace and rage (*read Godflesh, obviously), yet there could be perhaps nothing more irritating than the seizure-inducing click of programmed blastbeats (*read almost every bedroom black metal project). C.R.O.W.N are one of the few bands that have fully embraced the industrialized impact that the drum machine can offer into their sound and identity, and on their second full-length Natron, the French post-metal/sludge unit triumphantly demonstrate the evocative potential than dwells within this contentious device’s cold and unhuman circuitry.
Natron’s opening track Serpents initiates the interaction between the mechanical and the organic that comes to characterize the album, with Alcest’s Niege being the first of a series of guests to lend their talents to C.R.O.W.N’s exploration of cathartic, apocalyptic, and hopeful atmospheres. With its interplay between a droning, pervasive heaviness that burrows into the mind and serene moments of introspective shoegazing, the track provides an instantaneous insight into Natron’s juxtaposition of profoundly personal and humanistic emotion against the implacable, unforgiving coldness of the machine. This sensation is reinforced as Natron plays on and its list of guests expands, with Zatokrev’s Frederyk Rotter making the official membership of his gargantuan bellow in C.R.O.W.N’s ranks known through an emphatic performance on The Words You Speak Are Not Your Own, and Michael Eikenaar of Nihill invigorating the ferocity of Wings Beating Over Heaven with his throat-searing rasp.
The broad spectrum of talents lent by these guest musicians complements not only the diversity of sound found on Natron (the robotic black metal of the aforementioned Wings Beating Over Heaven being near to a polar opposite to Fossils’ Gothic/ambient vibes), but is also the perfect approach to capturing and expressing the nuances of the human condition that C.R.O.W.N skilfully weave into the mechanical foundation of their sound. This is where Natron bleakly shines, with the opposing elements of C.R.O.W.N’s dynamic – the fathomless emotional depth of humanity, and the cruel and implacable stoicism of the man-made, being expressed through the evocative clashes of sound and atmosphere that come to define the album. Hypnotic, dirge-like, meditative and devastatingly heavy, Natron is a captivatingly dark and varied work, merging styles and musicians into an enormously powerful journey into the heart of C.R.O.W.N’s abyss.
Releases August 14th