Crowned By Fire | Prone to Destroy

by Mark Allen
Staff Writer —

Take the drums-guitar-bass simplicity of traditional American heavy metal and chop out all the fluff. Now inject it with some occasional hints of southern fried flavor and front it with a singer who can growl like a junkyard dog, snarl like a pissed off Pit Bull, and unleash more thrash-your-ass attitude than a badger with his balls caught in a bear trap. Finish off this crunchy concoction by baking the whole thing in a burly production coating that embraces old-school sensibilities while taking advantage of modern technological advancements. The result is Crowned By Fire, a band content, for better or worse, to play meat-and-potatoes metal, and if the meal they serve up is too bland to be called gourmet, it’s at least solid enough to not give you the runs.

Crowned By Fire possess an impressive arsenal of riffs and are not afraid to use them. The opening track, “I Spit On Your Curse,” is a prime example of this, a full-fledged fusillade of full-throated fury that fires things off in fine headbanging fashion. It also immediately showcases vocalist John Fitterer as a force to be reckoned with, one part Chuck Billy (Testament), one part James Hetfield (Metallica), and one part Phil Anselmo (Pantera). He is heavily influenced by the spitting, snarling power of older thrash rather than the scourged uvula screams of the New Wave.

But these vocal comparisons serve to illuminate what is Crowned By Fire’s biggest flaw: the band sorely lacks its own identity. Just as Fitterer reminds you of several other singers, the music itself brings to mind Black Sabbath, Five Finger Death Punch, Black Label Society, Danzig, Texas Hippie Coalition…the list goes on and on. Crowned By Fire are a conglomeration of their influences, content to mimic the metal gods that ruled before them rather than bring anything new to the game, and the déjà vu dynamic may turn off some listeners.

But do not get too bogged down by the negatives; Crowned By Fire may suffer from a clone mentality, but the clone-metal they play is fairly enjoyable. Nothing delivers a knockout blow—in boxing terms, these guys are more spirited sparring partner than heavyweight champ—but songs like “Witch in the Window” and “Get Under the Dirt” come equipped with demonic drum work, gut-punch rhythms, and sturdy hooks delivered with chanting, well-placed gang backing vocals. The vicious groove of “Vulture With a Rifle” slams you violently back in your seat as if you’ve been blistered by a barrage of bullets and threatens to split your skull wide open with sheer sonic force.

The best riff of the album appears in “As Above So Below,” a stacked and layered powerhouse that is accompanied by a stop-start rhythm that will give your neck a whiplash-inducing workout. That said, make sure you really enjoy that riff, because the chorus is a real snoozer, capable of putting you to sleep faster than chugging a whole bottle of Ambien with a quart of Jim Beam. But man, what a riff…

Crowned By Fire are a decent band with tons of potential. And while the phrase “nothing new under the sun” applies to heavy metal as readily as anywhere else, the band still needs to stamp their own identity on their sound and find a way to stand out from the rest of the pack. Definitely not a band to be discarded, because with some minor improvements, Crowned By Fire will be prone to destroy the competition rather than simply huddle amongst them.

Genre: Heavy Metal

John Fitterer (lead vocals)
Justin Manning (guitars)
Nic Miller (bass)
William Lierann (drums, percussion)

Track Listing
1. I Spit on Your Curse
2. Sex With a Ghost
3. Witch in the Window
4. Get Under the Dirt
5. Black Moon Shine
6. Shake the Bag
7. I Am the Crime
8. Tombs of Oblivion
9. As Above So Below
10. Vulture With a Rifle
11. Prone to Destroy


Label: Digital Media Records

Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10

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