Crom – Of Love And Death
Crom’s popularity in the underground community has spiked since the release of 2008’s Vengeance, which was a marvel of very heartfelt and effective power/folk metal. With bated breath, we’ve awaited the coming of a new album, and upon its arrival, it seems that Crom (or Walter Grosse, whichever you prefer) is still a very personal project, and retains its one-man band status. The contents of the album have been kept a mystery, which suits the artist’s aura of grey drab mystery just fine.
On Of Love And Death, Crom’s sound is very similar to that which has become familiar on Vengeance. The atmosphere, however, is unmistakably different, as one might expect from an album based around the swirling dichotomy of its conceptual subjects. Like Vengeance, it is an often acoustic album with a soul steeped in epic heavy and some black metal. The extreme metal influence is perhaps more clearly present in this new album, with a few harsh scrapes in the background of opener “Reason To Live”, and the gritty wash of the distorted guitar. By and large however, Grosse’s inimitable style of keening, forlorn vocals are the primary focus of the album, and they have improved without a doubt. Gone are the vocal imperfections of the debut, and only a more harsh vocal critic than myself would find something to nitpick here.
The acoustic guitar is what really lends Crom its atmosphere, and Of Love And Death is chock full of eternally plodding arpeggios and rather bare performances from the bass and drums as well. Layered vocals and melancholy vocal melodies build upon this framework to erect stories of heartbreak, longing, and wistful pondering. This album is heavier than its predecessor in terms of distorted guitar usage, as well as the occasional scream or harsh snarl, but it is also a bit more redundant. Here, my estimation of the album’s value drops, for the songs do indeed begin to recede in their general memorability. The heavier parts of this music simply do not work in Crom’s favor in nearly the same way that the softer material does. Some may say that Vengeance had this same tendency, but here the melodies are interrupted by guitar solos, and the atmosphere punctuated by more instrumental distractions. By becoming more of a metal project, I believe that the message has become a bit lost in the proceedings. I observe less of a sense of purpose and rich memories and more idle musings on Of Love And Death.
My personal favorite track, and one of the most masterfully melodic and lyrically enchanting, is “This Dying World”, which deserves special mention for its breathless admiration of the world, mixed with despair and anguish at its inevitable ruin. Unfortunately, I find that I don’t appreciate most of the album in this way, and in general this is a weaker, albeit more professionally assembled effort than Crom’s debut. While the somber setting offers a few heartwrenching moments and the band’s signature atmosphere, it isn’t accomplished as well as it has been in the past. Maybe someone who has experienced heartbreak can appreciate this album better than I, but other bands have managed to bring me to the brink of tears and beyond with this same subject, and so I am left with doubt. Whatever the case, this is a bit of a disappointment after waiting for so long, and not just because there’s no equivalent of the splendid “Wings Of Fire”. Still, I recommend this for fans of the band’s previous work, since you might get more out of it than I have, and those who enjoy epic heavy metal may enjoy a soak in Crom’s pensive atmosphere.
Dan’s Rating: 3.0 out of 5