The Crown

Possessed 13

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Having survived their turbulent one-album stint with journeyman vocalist Tomas Lindberg (ex-At the Gates), Swede speedsters the Crown reunited with original howler Johan Lindstrand and got down to (sort of) serious business for their sixth album, Possessed 13. Instantly noticeable is the record's production, courtesy of Studio Fredman: a nice, thick, full-bodied lager designed to be slugged down in big gulps, resulting in maximum death/thrash drunkenness. That's one improvement the group has made over past releases, the second being its increasingly smart songwriting ethic, maintaining relatively hectic arrangements and lickety-split tempos without falling face-first into a mudhole of empty exercises in musicianship. "Are You Morbid?" is a not-too-subtle nod to Celtic Frost in title only, forgoing the classic band's trademark sludge riffs for a speedy romp outdoing death & roll-era Entombed at its own game; also notable are the creeping death-trudge of instrumental "Dream Bloody Hell," the smart, midtempo hooks of "Bow to None," and "Morningstar Rising," which deftly trades between rattling blastbeats and double-time thrash polkas. Even better, the Crown seem to possess a sense of humor and self-awareness translating to the cover art, which recalls the poster of an old B-grade horror flick, and is further fueled by borderline-silly but fun tracks "Zombiefied!," old-school Metallica-style barnburner "Kill 'Em All" (which goes so far as to blatantly rip off the legendary double-bass break of Slayer's "Angel of Death"), and "Face of Destruction -- Deep Hit of Death," all of which playfully toy with clich├ęs, tongues slightly in cheek (see also: Babylon Whores, Children of Bodom). Possessed 13 is a solid effort sometimes dipping into the exceptional, and while the group seems to constantly remind one of its (obvious) influences, it still doesn't detract from this album's entertainment value. [Initial printings of Possessed 13 featured a bonus disc sporting tracks of varying degrees of uselessness to casual fans: 11 early, raw demo cuts, a Bathory cover ("Burnin' Leather"), and a studio outtake from 1999 ("Rebel Angel").]

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