Floridian doom! Fort Lauderdale natives Northern Crown are back with a new full-lengther, their third, and I have to say that, with one or two minor reservations, it’s their best yet.
One of the reservations is that the best thing about In A Pallid Shadow is the quality of the guitar solos, which are contributed by a session guitarist, Nightfall/Karmic Link/Dark Hound axe man Evan Hensley. Hensley is an absolute star, and some of his playing here is nothing short of explosive (his solo on opening track Leprosarium especially), but the fact that he is a ‘mere’ session man makes everything seem like less of a band effort. I don’t know why this bothers me particularly – he’s been the studio lead player on all three of Northern Crown’s albums – but it does.
That said, he’s got some pretty good songs to solo over. Despite being only five songs long, this album covers a lot of musical ground, from more traditional doom to the other, progressive end of the genre’s spectrum, calling at all points in between. The Last Snowfall is a fine examplar of the latter style; Zachary Randall’s spacey keyboard contributions really do impart a ‘prog’ feel, which, combined with Leona Hayward’s roving bass runs give off a feel that’s like a very old, as yet unheard, Rush track…
Frank Serafine is an imposing vocalist; he sings confidently, and his pipes, which occasionally resemble those of that well known doyen of doom, Robert Lowe, bring authority and class to every song on the album. And he’s not just a metal belter, either; his wistful semi-croon on A Vivid Monochrome is a joy to listen to, proving the man is a killer stylist whatever the style of music he chooses to lend his talents to. Fans of My Dying Bride will recognise the sheer desolation to be found in this song, as it moves from stark reverie to blazing regret atop a landslide of glacial chords and mournful strings, and I have to say it’s a real highlight from all the albums I’ve hear so far this year. Dripping with emotion – Hensley’s fabulous solo is the six-string representation of sorrow – this really is top-drawer stuff.
It would be easy to simply turn this review into a listography of hyperbole, so many good moments are there to be found within the grooves of In A Pallid Shadow; suffice to say you need to give this a go as soon as is humanly possible!
In A Pallid Shadow will be released on July 3rd.
Editor’s Note: After reading Ferry Templeton’s review of In A Pallid Shadow, the band made this comment: “Thanks for the kind words about the record! I think it’s worth clarifying something though. While Evan is making his third guest appearance on the record and we are constantly in awe of his prowess, he is not the “main” lead guitarist on the record.
He does the main guitar solos in Observing and Leprosarium. Leona does the two dirty solos in 8 Hours and Frank does pretty much the rest of the solos on the record. Zachary handles most of the lead melody parts. Evan is awesome and a substantial contributor to the band. We hope to have him in a more full-time role in the future”.
Happy to clarify! – Ed.