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Swedish hard rock/power metal supergroup Crowne hit the scene with a splash, having formed just a few short years ago, but wasted no time making an impression. With members from such heavy hitters as Dynazty and Art Nation, the crew set out to turn heads quickly, dropping Kings in the North in 2021, establishing a blueprint for what was to come - soaring vocals, epic guitar solos, uplifting melodies and packed to the brim with enough riffs for three albums. It’s an album that leaves the listener with a smile from ear to ear after listening to it - which is not to reduce it to a fun-but-forgettable experience - but rather that the group had tapped into the soul of heavy metal with their debut, and left expectations high for what they would do with their next release.

Ultimately, with 2023’s Operation Phoenix, their answer seemed to be ‘as before, but everything even better’. Their sophomore album is - as a fan would hope - jam packed with everything that their debut album contained, with standout performances from every member combining into a maelstrom of metal madness, but elevating itself into a realm that their debut album doesn’t quite touch. The riffs are catchier, Alexander Strandell’s vocals soar higher, Jona Tee’s solos are even more virtuosic - it’s everything that Kings… presented, but just more. What sets Crowne apart is just how effortless it all sounds - as if the band barely lifted a finger to accomplish it all. Phoenix does not come across as a sophomore album at all, which is likely helped by the presence of new guitarist Love Magnusson (of Dynazty fame) contributing equal songwriting and solo flashiness. Everything combines seamlessly into a joyous, anthemic explosion on nearly every song, with standout tracks like “Juliette” and “Ready to Run” sounding like heavy metal masterclasses, the latter featuring an layered gang vocals and charts and a pulse-pounding chorus leading into a wild harmonized guitar solo, which further leads into a tapped flourish with Strandell belting over the top of it -  when this album is firing on all cylinders, it is peerless. Far from being the only standout moment on the album, Operation Phoenix is filled with excellent moments like this.

All of this is accompanied by a clean, perfect production job by band member Jona Tee. The album has a full-bodied sound, giving full room to let the instruments shine in equal measure to Strandell’s seemingly limitless, incredible range. Backing duo John Levén (bassist) and Christian Lundqvist are also given plenty of room to breathe, the bass fully audible nearly throughout, and the drums given a meaty presence in the mix that really give an album that would be heavy by any standards a hard-hitting, modern sound that should please pretty much anyone.

Operation Phoenix releases on January 27th, 2023 in CD/Digital format, and a formal LP release will occur on March 17th, 2023.

Joseph Dunst

Photojournalist - Minneapolis  

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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