REVIEW: Crowne – Operation Phoenix

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If THE HALO EFFECT is the most exciting supergroup in the Swedish melodeath scene, then CROWNE is their melodic hard rock counterpart. Already on their second album after their 2021 debut, “Kings in the North,CROWNE are establishing themselves as a force of nature in the genre. Not surprisingly so, as the band features members from such acts as H.E.A.T, DYNAZTY, and EUROPE. Their sophomore album, “Operation Phoenix,” is out on January 27th, 2023, via Frontiers Records.

In between Love Magnusson’s stellar guitar work, Alexander Strandell’s powerful and slick vocals, and Jona Tee’s lush keys, this album really delivers. Each song is filled to the brim with melodies, simple yet highly effective choruses, and some AOR moments that are guaranteed to get you moving (or at least singing along). Unlike many other albums in this genre, “Operation Phoenix” does not suffer from any palpable lack of diversity, even if many of the songs follow the same tried-and-tested formula. On the contrary, it builds on the strong foundation laid by “Kings in the North,” taking all its best parts to a whole new level of technical mastery and melodic perfection.

The album opens up in full force with a trio of songs that should be familiar, since they were also released as singles. Of these, “Champions” really got my attention, being very catchy and extremely energetic, with a hooky chorus delivered to perfection by ART NATION’s Alexander Strandell. However, I can’t honestly fault the other two, as the title track is a good melodic opener with a driving bass line, while “In the Name of the Fallen” offers a hefty, chugging guitar riff capped off by a great solo. Actually, there is no shortage of amazing solos on this album, as DYNAZTY’s Love Magnusson is truly flexing his shredding muscles.

Even if they can pull off intense, heavy, and up-tempo songs like “Super Trooper,”Juliette,” or power metal-infused “The Last of Us” with conviction, it is the mid-paced melodic hard rock, as heard on anthemic “Ready to Run,” energetic “Champions,” or lively “Victorious” that is their bread and butter. These three latter songs benefit from bouncy synths and crunchy riffs that overlap beautifully, while the vocals rise and fall, thus giving the tracks more dynamism. The fact that the tracklist zigzags between the heavy cuts and more melodic moments is a definite plus, as this gives the album a nice ebb-and-flow –type of movement instead of simply meshing together similarly-sounding songs. 

Keeping the momentum going, high-octane “Just Believe” has a subdued melody driving the chorus while the drums and bass provide a nice backdrop, on which the vocals dance and flourish in the verses. In the same vein, “Victorious” capitalizes on a hooky chorus section and wonderful guitar work, while previous track “Roar” is another intense and heavy number. “Northern Lights” has a faint Celtic vibe going for it around the brooding chorus thus closing the album on a rather moody note. 

As genres, both melodic metal and melodic rock have their constraints. As such, bands that choose to pursue this style of music have to deliver their songs within a set of defined parameters where melody reigns supreme. With “Operation Phoenix,CROWNE have managed to deliver an album that successfully exploits the general trappings of this genre while steering clear of many of its clichés. If you enjoy soaring vocals, lavish keys, meaty guitars, and melodies aplenty, then this album (and this band) should definitely be on your radar. 

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

  • Operation Phoenix
  • Champions
  • In the Name of the Fallen
  • Super Trooper
  • Ready to Run
  • Juliette
  • The Last of Us
  • Just Believe
  • Roar
  • Victorious
  • Northern Lights

Line Up

  • Alexander Strandell – Vocals
  • Love Magnusson – Guitar
  • Jona Tee – Guitar/Keyboards/Backing Vocals
  • John Leven – Bass
  • Christian Lundqvist – Drums

Label

Frontiers Records

Links

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