Retrograde marks a sharp turn in Crown the Empire's rocketship trajectory. The Texas band's third LP, Retrograde shifts from the theatrical concepts that defined their previous efforts toward the simplicity of strong hooks and accessibility. As their first effort without such restrictive boundaries, it grants the quintet some space to breathe, allowing them to focus on songwriting without too much overthinking.This sci-fi trip to another dimension is firmly rooted in the Church of Linkin Park, combining equal parts brutal frenzy and pop flair. Much like Bring Me the Horizon's 2015 mainstream bid, That's the Spirit, or Hands Like Houses' melodic opus Dissonants, Retrograde is packed with ambient atmosphere, monster anthems, and melody. "Are You Coming with Me?" and "Aftermath" are lifted by propulsive energy and arena-sized choruses, while the frenzied "Zero" and triumphant "Kaleidoscope" launch Retrograde into the atmosphere. The poppiest entries may turn off fans expecting the hardcore CtE of old, but "Hologram" and "Weight of the World" are such addictive doses of pop-core that the gamble is worth it. These changes might run the risk of being divisive, but the output is worth it.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung