Review by Shannon Shumaker
Crown The Empire have reinvented themselves yet again on their new album, Retrograde, and the result couldn’t be better. Although Retrograde may not be strong for the same reasons that fans initially fell in love with the band, there’s no denying that this album is incredibly powerful and diverse. From epic tracks like “Are You Coming With Me” to the dark and uncomfortable “Lucky Us,” and even the ambient “Oxygen,” Crown The Empire explore and expand their sound on this release, and do so successfully.
Opening Retrograde is the prelude, “SK-68,” followed by “Are You Coming With Me,” making for a very theatrical and powerful beginning of the album. Group vocals are reminiscent of artists like 30 Seconds To Mars with their strong, arena ready sound, but that doesn’t mean that the band has compromised intricate guitar work or their versatile vocal work for a newer sound. Instead, “Are You Coming With Me” feels like a war cry, and the following song “Zero” simply follows suit.
On top of a very powerful, big sound, Retrograde is also a very diverse release. The first of that diversity can be heard in “Aftermath,” which is a bit slower and gives you some breathing room after the first few relentless tracks, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have that punch that “Zero” has either. The unclean vocals and guitar work in the bridge of “Aftermath” are incredible, as are the stunning clean vocals in the chorus. There’s a great balance between the melodic and chaotic moments not only in this song, but in the rest of the album. A great example of this is “Hologram,” easily one of the strongest songs on the album. “Hologram” simply hits every single point - vocally, lyrically and sonically, this song is just on point, though the beautiful chorus is definitely the selling point, filled to the brim with emotion and catchy as hell. But like “Aftermath,” the track isn’t without explosive unclean vocals - it’s the perfect balance between the two.
The turning point in Retrograde is “The Fear Is Real,” the three minute long interlude track. The ambient sounds in the track are so dark and eerie that at times, they manage to make you feel uncomfortable, like someone is watching you. “The Fear Is Real” sets the tone for the rest of the album and flows easily into the dark and aggressive “Lucky Us.”
Although the second half of Retrograde does not seem quite as relentless as the first half, it still showcases many of Crown The Empire’s strengths. The super dark, “Lucky Us,” which is carried primarily by dirty guitar and bass work and unclean vocals sits right next to “Weight Of The World,” which hosts easily one of the more poppy and catchy choruses on the album. Then there’s the ambient and slow “Oxygen,” which listened to on its own may seem like it came out of left field, but seated right before the end of the album makes complete sense.
If you go into Retrograde expecting to hear a carbon copy of every other Crown The Empire record, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you want to hear a band expanding on their already solid sound and even experimenting a little, Retrograde is sure to satisfy. Any song from this album could be picked apart and listened to on its own, but it really shines when it is heard in full. Despite the fact that it isn’t as heavy of a concept album as The Resistance: Rise Of The Runaways, it still does tell a story, and one that should be heard front to back.
Listen to "Hologram"
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