First formed in the picturesque city of Trollhattan (under the moniker Crown Of Thorns) back in 1990, Swedish Thrash/Metal quintet The Crown has experienced a steady influx of new and fairly talented personnel to and from its ranks these past twenty five years.

While this constant infusion of new blood has been instrumental in enabling the band to present us with material of a unique and diverse nature, every self-respecting extreme Metal fan will agree that the Swedes have really been at their strongest only when fronted by Johan Lindstrand.

It is thus both an exciting prospect and a great relief to know that “Death Is Not Dead”, the band’s ninth studio album to date, has been created with Lindstrand occupying the position behind the mike.

I am pretty sure that what most of you are most eager to know is how well these eleven new compositions fare in comparison with the band’s classic, much loved material, so my assessment will be straight and to the point! While “Death Is Not Dead” does not possess the kind of explosive and genre-defining nature that would enable it to compete with either “The Burning” (1995) or “Deathrace King” (2000), it is still a pretty intense, massive-sounding and thoroughly enjoyable affair.

What we have here is an album filled with flamboyant leads, massive groove-infused riffs, bombastic drum beats and some of the most intense/inhuman growls ever to come out of Johan Lindstrand’s mouth.

The only problem, one that I am sure most of you will have no problem in overcoming, is with regards the album’s ability to come across as a cohesive, well-balanced unit – a problem that will fade further into obscurity as Marko Tervonen’s massive riffs continue to pound your well-trained ears.

Though commencing operations with a one and a half minute, harmony-driven piece entitled “Reign”, the album truly kicks off with “Headhunter” – an aggressive, groove-laden beast that displays both the band’s signature style and much-loved sound.

While beginning life as another riff-driven, straight forward piece, “Iblis Bane” soon indulges in interesting/contrasting rhythmical patterns that add much character to the proceedings.

It is at this very point, with a much desired momentum having been craftily built up, that the band does the unthinkable, by undermining the album’s cohesion and purpose by indulging in a decently performed but rather unnecessary cover of Paradise Lost’s classic “Eternal”.

Luckily, both “Struck By Lightning” and “Speed Kills (Full Moon Ahead)” have the character and energy needed in order to lift the album right back up, while both the thematically ‘challenging’ “Herd Of Swine” and melody focused “Horrid Ways” keep the album’s standards relatively high.

Interestingly enough, the closing section of the album contains some of the most impressive tunes on offer. “Ride To Ruin” is an up-tempo head banger filled with top quality riffs, while the harmony filled instrumental “Meduseld” is followed by the groovy Morbid Angel influenced opus “Godeater” – a song that showcases Johan Lindstrand’s vocals at their commanding best.

“Death Is Not Dead” is a highly enjoyable but also slightly peculiar album as far as I’m concerned. That is not only as a result of lacking coherence and focus but also because, though featuring riffs and melodies that can be described as straight forward and easy to digest, it requires time and a decent amount of effort before one can really become acquainted with it.

The good news is that that, once the connection is finally achieved, what you’ve subscribed to is hours upon hours of good friendly violent fun! This may not be the ground-breaking return to form that the band’s fans would be hoping for but a great start to a hopefully new phase in the band’s career.

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