Independent Release

Review by Mortuai

While the self-titled CD I received from Madrid, Spain’s Crownless is ostensibly the band’s first release, they are not quite as new a band as the writeup they kindly included with the disc proclaims. Originally formed in Madrid under the moniker Anzeray, the group released a single demo in 2003 before going through an almost-complete lineup switch in 2006 and changing their name to Crownless. Of course most visitors to this site are probably already well aware that “Crownless” is the title of a track from Nightwish‘s “Wishmaster” album and might therefore logically be expecting Nightwish-cloning. What you have instead is something I can’t quite accurately describe, but I’ll try to give you a visual image that largely sums it up: Picture you’re incredibly hungry and you find a place to eat. It’s a buffet with a wide variety of different dishes, but unlike most cheap buffets, every single item available is absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, it’s also late at night and the place closes up before you’ve had a chance to take more than a bite of everything on the menu and you’re left no longer starving but still desperately wanting to try more. Got that image pictured properly in your head? Translate that into a music CD and you have Crownless. The disc starts off with what seems by this point to be an obligatory inclusion, namely a minute-long effects and soundbyte-driven intro which admittantly effectively builds tension nicely for the first real track,“‘Freak Garden”,’ a song which opens with a keyboard-backed heavy-prog metal stomp riff. Mere seconds in, I found myself asking a question which I would repeat quite a few times over the course of the next twenty minutes or so, namely…’This is a DEMO?’ The production on Crownless is absolutely stellar – better in fact than a great many full-fledged albums I’ve heard – with all instruments and vocals coming through clearly and sharply, yet never sounding overprocessed or studio-flattened. The booklet artwork and layout is similarly spectacular, I should note – a top-notch job worthy of the music contained on the disc. Perhaps a bit unusually, male vocals make their appearance first, provided by bassist Sergio Mena, who during the course of this track proves he is equally adept at both melodic midrange singing and vicious deathgrowls. Vanessa makes her debut soon enough, though, and while she seems to be holding back just a little bit here and there, she does have an excellent melodic tone and her delivery is consistently believable and thoroughly enjoyable. Better yet for a guitar fanatic like me, guitarist Jorge Escudero delivers a great-sounding Middle Eastern-themed lead break which showcases the style he maintains throughout the release – technically skilled yet always melodic and never giving in to playing fast for the sake of playing fast. Up next is “Night Crawler”,’ in which the band shifts gears from heavy-prog to a midtempo classic/power metal hybrid with some nice keyboard lines tastefully added into the mixture. Great harmonized dual-vocal lines from Ramirez and Mena pepper this cut and Escudero rips out another superb guitar lead. Following that is “Oceans Of Sorrow” and it is here the band starts sounding more like you would expect a band named after a Nightwish track to sound, with Ramirez‘s voice switching to a more operatic style, gothic-symphonic musical elements coming to the forefront, and the keyboards taking a more prominent role in the overall sonic mixture. This is truly one of those rare releases where each track seems better than the one before it and that trend doesn’t stop with the disc’s longest song, “Touch The Sky”, an ultra-catchy Euro-power metalfest that instantly calls to mind some of Gamma Ray’s better efforts and a touch here and there of the glory days of Stratovarius. Just when you think the band is tapped out stylistically, they shift gears yet again to an absolutely beautiful Spanish guitar and vocal piece, “El Angel de los Sueños” (‘The Angel Of Dreams’). Ramirez really shines here, her voice sounding gorgeous in her native language and the soft, almost lullaby-ish music providing a perfect backdrop for the vocal melodies and harmonies. If Crownless the band has a weakness, it would have to be the fact that in trying to be all things for all listeners, they lose a bit of focus and don’t manage to establish a really coherent identity and signature sound for themselves. The good news about even that perceived ‘weakness’ is that every experiment they try on the disc works superbly well. If Crownless the disc has a weakness, it’s that it’s only twenty-four minutes long and makes me want to hear more of everything! But then again, I have to keep reminding myself…it’s only a demo! This band has a tremendous amount to offer and I personally can’t wait to hear what they can do on a full album. Highly recommended as a group to check out now and to watch out for in the future.

Rating – 90/100

 

Tracklist

  1. Intro
  2. Freak Garden
  3. Night Crowler
  4. Ocean of Sorrow
  5. Touch the Sky
  6. El Angel de los Sueños

 

Line Up

  • Vanessa “Nane” Ramirez – Vocals
  • Jorge Escudero – Guitar
  • Pablo Sanchez – Keyboards
  • Sergio “Keko” Mena – Bass, Vocals  
  • Pablo “Tato” Bazan – Drums  

 

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