I have a hypothesis – every decade, you come across a handful of underground, starter bands whose success is almost conclusive. Black Crown Initiate or BCI is one of those bands – a trio of unknown musicians who have compiled and executed an album of undeniably brutal, but perfectly listenable material. Song of The Crippled Bull is a masterpiece of a record certain to capture the imagination of fans and musicians alike. If you enjoy extreme metal, BCI is an example of a band pushing the very limits of what constitutes decipherable but highly sophisticated and emotive music.
This is not hyperbole, this record is modern death metal at its finest. First of all, the guitar tone is crushing; 8-string guitars, sounds less like Meshuggah imitations and more like what they were intended to be, instruments of destruction. Although this is a “progressive” metal record, the riffs and lead lines are technically straightforward, making this even more interesting. – The composition is less about being virtuosic and more about how the songwriting. Additionally, the fact that the bassist was audible was icing on the cake, and although the drums weren’t really played by an actual person – they’re written exquisitely. Death metal drummers suffer a severe ailment, they don’t actually know how to play a beat and let the music breathe, a subtractive effect this record does not suffer from.
It is easy to write a modern death metal record – play fast, cleanly and tune low. BCI have not fallen into this trap of compromising lack of writing ability with shred, and thus this record is in no rush to impress, but rather takes it’s time flirtatiously. Sure, there are blast beats and double bass layers all over, but the true power of this EP is the emotion. The interesting part is that although this band was a 3-piece, only one man, Andy Thomas, wrote the entire album. Thomas is as eccentric and interesting a guy as I’ve ever met, sublimely talented, well-spoken individual. This record is a very personal reflection of this character, a person who by his own admission thrives on pain.
There are just two drawbacks I can think of. First, although the guitar solos on this album are somewhat well phrased, they’re fairly average and short. I’m not as interested in playing fast as I am hearing good phrasing, but this record has neither fast solos nor particularly good phrasing. The leads just exist, although they’re pretty cool, it doesn’t add much to the record. Secondly, the EP is a little too short, although this is a minor point because it was intended to be this way.
In conclusion, this record is an extreme metal gem filled with incredible surprises. Although it is only four songs long, the diversity and shifting dynamics will leave listeners with multiple surprises on several levels. In the history of this genre there have been several startup bands who, on the virtue of a single release, have been catapulted into extreme metal greatness – Opeths’ Orchid, Emperors’ In The Nightside Eclipse, Niles’ Black Seeds of Vengeance – it is foreseeable that Black Crown Initiate’s Song Of The Crippled Bull soon joins this exclusive list of overachievers.
Edited by: Ahmed S. Khalil