Pssst, you…yeah, YOU! In search for new music? Then I have something special for you…a band still somehow relatively unknown, but oh so good. A hidden champion of Melodic Blackened Metal, just waiting for you to be unveiled. A maelstrom of heavy circular riffing, forward pushing drumming, sweeping melodies and intriguing storytelling, that will make an lasting impact, the second you hear it´s mesmerizing charm. Accompanied by unique visual elements and a warm, clear sound, you get the full package here. So, do I have your attention?! Then let me introduce you to Crystal Coffin and their new masterpiece The Curse Of Immortality.
Founded in 2017, this three-piece from Vancouver/Canada has already self-released two magnificent works of blackened art in form of The Transformation Room in 2020 and The Stairway Eternal in 2021. Aron Shute (vocals, bass guitar), Lenkyn Ostapovich (guitars, synths, piano, scapes, secondary vocals and visuals) and Rob Poirier (drums) have a joint passion for everything related to 70´s/80´s horror/sci-fi synth work, Prog, Folk and Kraut(rock) as also Doom and Second Wave Black Metal. And this is noticeable right from the get-go in the best way possible.
Although each of the genres mentioned above offers a huge world in itself in which you can immerse yourself deeply, you have most likely not yet heard how powerful a mixture of these facets can sound. Modern era Enslaved, would be the only and also most obvious point of comparison. But in contrast to the Norwegian legends, Crystal Coffin doesn´t go down the rabbit hole of Prog/Folk and Kraut, with the risk of getting lost somewhere in the tunnels of sonical self-expression. Crystal Coffin is nowhere near of being ”artsy”, but more so use the repetitive and trance-like nature inherent in these genres for building layers upon layers of sound to a naturally unfolding climax at the end of each track. Accessible and intense at once. The required clarity for such a sound achieved again through the masterly executed engineering and mixing by Jesse Gander at RainCity Recorders.
But now, let´s turn to another unique feature of Crystal Coffin, their storytelling capabilities. I mean, it is probably correct to say, that when you utilize the Holodomor famine in Soviet era Ukraine during the early 1930s ( The Transformation Room) and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Prypjat/Ukraine 1986 ( The Stairway Eternal) as a backdrop for your horror and sci-fi album concepts, it is more than a intriguing starting point. Whereas in the former a level of earthly suffering readies a subject for the realm of the infinite, sent down to earth (buried), uncertain of what to do with it´s now infinite existence, the latter had a subject rising into the ”infinite” cosmos reaching for a higher existence through a cosmic gateway behind one of the reactor´s secondary consoles, only to be suffering dearly on it´s way back during the reactor meltdown. Holy moly!
Ultimately hopeless, both subjects try to escape a world marked by suffering through acts of transformation. The Curse Of Immortality follows this ominous theme, but now a suicidal protagonist is involuntarily forced into immortality/the infinite, in a future where limitations on existence are no more. Involving clandestine medical personnel of a rehabilitation center, evil rites, secret experiments, cryogenetics…the transformation itself prevents the escape from this world here. After all it´s transformation through suffering, which somehow reminds me of the modern French horror classic ”Martyrs”. Fitting in impact.
This pitch-black irony is fittingly reflected by darker, heavier and faster music than anything they have released, while still retaining the aforementioned unique features. By the way, I wonder if Crystal Coffin initially thought of connecting the third album with a catastrophe in Ukraine another 36 years after the last one…who knows, but a interesting coincidence nevertheless.
First track ”Shadows Never Cast” directly takes you somewhere below the rehabilitation center. Chanting, mechanical ventilation and other ominous soundscapes setting the inital mood until the music erupts out of nowhere. This is followed by a built up in the vein of classical movements, an elegy of full-throttle guitars, driving drums, raspy vocals and synths. Nothing else than epic! There is even a 70s/80s AOR piano included at the end. And yes, it makes sense. Crystal Coffin´s music is strangely uplifting. Nothing bad at all! Next track and personal favourite of mine ”The Undead” even surpasses this exquisite start. It has a irresistible groove, includes a faster Pink Floyd -style guitar solo at the end and is even more grandious in its overall effect. Single ”The Vortex of Earth and Death” keeps this pace, while a bit subdued at first. But again, the band adds different layers of sound throughout the song, implementing subtle, but really effective shifts in their playing. These make the difference. Like with Krautrock, you stay for the long run, for those shifts and added layers of sound.
Fourth track ”Final Breaths” directly exemplifies this by adding space effects, clean vocals by Lenkyn (by the way with cool post-punk/goth -vibes) and sounds of a female choir. ”Cryogenesis” starts with 80´s sci-fi vibes and includes a acoustic guitar, while still hitting you with this heavy groove of theirs. Hawkwind, Rush, Satyricon, Darkthrone, Enslaved, Wolves in the Throne Room, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Fabio Frizzi. Names that you see in your mind’s eye, while listening to the album. Until they switch gears and go full-on Blackened Melodic Doom on the following tracks ”Rise” and ”Leviathans Encased”. The stage is set, the inevitable doom of immortal life is near. Eighth and last track ”The Closing of the Crystal Coffin” is an instrumental outro, that sums up all the different moods and melodic movements of the album. A fitting wrap-up, that in connection with the title could lead to frightening assumptions in regards to the future of the band.
Is it just the end of the album or the end of an era for the band? What comes next? Outer space or non-fictional themes? Whatever, as long as those guys release ralbums like that in future, I will be more than happy.
Join the club, spread the word and escape this world of suffering with Crystal Coffin and The Curse Of Immortality. Be ready to be transformed and prepare to be soon telling all of your friends: ”[…]Then I have something special for you…”!