For those who don’t know, Crown The Empire’s sound is (excuse the pun), at the core, metalcore, but with a slightly softer side, well, speaking in relative terms, I mean metalcore can only soften so much before it becomes a different genre altogether. But with Crown The Empire, there is a little more vocal texture than just the full screamo that you would hear in other metalcore bands. It’s like dipping your toe in the pool of metalcore. Band vocalist, Andy Leo, is completely self-aware that while some may, as he’s quoted saying, “write (them) off”, or consider it an Achilles heel that threatens the strength of the band, it actually gives the band a distinction within the genre, and they know it. Crown The Empire’s choruses are undeniably catchy as hell and full of life while still having the punch and aggression of metalcore. And for a band that formed only a wee 5 years ago in 2010, their music is surprisingly tight and self-assured.
Newest album, Retrograde, represents as a tight, compact album of 10 songs, spread perfectly between full-blown theatrics and instrumentals that ease you between those musically and vocally dense theatrical tracks. As can be heard in the intro track, SK-68, with its twinkly piano notes and eventual sombre, ritual sounding choir vocals, that wouldn’t go astray on a ‘Troy’ movie soundtrack. While The Fear Is Real presents as an electronic, engine roaring, Fast 2 Furious instrumental. Well, I guess the lyrical songs aren’t the only theatrical ones after all.
Hologram, with it’s muted, spacial, opening verse, mimicking what a Hologram would probably sound like, before bursting into the most ridiculously catchy melody (so catchy you’d almost feel like you came up with it yourself), is a perfect mid-album standout, which is a clever place to place a song like that, as mid-album is usually where you need to inspire the audience (during first listen especially) to not just float through the middle of the album like some weird indistinct mash-up where you zone out and start wondering what you’re going to eat for dinner, because the last thing you want is an audience to zone out mid-album, it’s crucial to re-demand full attention mid-album. The middle is the best place to remind the audience of why they are listening to you and Hologram does just that. Hologram is a fantastic visual representation of what Crown The Empire describes as “losing time”. Somebody seeing the illusion of your past self. Especially specifically for a band on tour constantly, where you’re stuck in a “bubble”. The fear is “I’ve been gone six months, this person’s not gonna know anything about me”. That fear of losing connections and having the possibility of expecting everything to stay the same but knowing it won’t, because life and people grow and move, with or without you. Yeah, definitely something an audience could never relate to. *Sarcasm*
With a space odyssey feel and a strong track list, it would be a hard sell to fault Retrograde. “Do you know who I am?/I’m afraid you’ll never understand/There’s a part of me still lost out there/And I just wanna know/Yeah I just wanna know/Am I becoming a hologram?/Now I think I’m worried that I’m in too deep/Like a phantom that you’ll never see/So I just wanna know/Yeah I just wanna know/Am I becoming a hologram?”. The answer to that question for each band member in their personal lives, I can’t answer for, but musically, I can, and the answer is definitely not.