It’s fairly obvious Crown The Empire have evolved from the theatrical twist they put on metalcore about a decade ago. The ‘Retrograde’ era marked the beginning of a divisive, yet necessary stylistic overhaul, with following releases affirming the band’s confidence in presenting a modernised sound that stresses the importance of a melody and blurs a few lines between genres. Today marks the release of their fifth studio album, ‘DOGMA’, which serves as a continuation of this musical backdrop and pays an homage to the band’s roots as well as a newfound shift in mindset surrounding creativity.
Between layers of static-ridden industrial sounds and even bigger synths, introspective thoughts are shouted into the void as the first sounds of “DOGMA” crescendo into a shockingly heavy introduction. It’s brief and might throw listeners partial to more recent releases for a loop as it leads into the next track.
Aside from the anthem’s in-your-face energy, aiming to reignite the same rebellious passion the quartet shared in their early days of making music feels like a detail worth mentioning when it comes to understanding what makes “Black Sheep” an intriguing standout. Listeners looking for loads of colourful imagery or lyrics that require riddle-solving of sorts need not to look here; frontman Andy Leo’s delivery couldn’t be more frank, and it works well to his advantage as he discusses the song’s central theme of finding strength in being an outlier.
Given ‘DOGMA’ was heavily influenced by a period of isolation circa 2020, self-reflection seems to be a recurring topic throughout it, and “Modified” examines the possibility of changing one’s flaws. Toeing the line between dark pop and post-hardcore, “Paranoid” takes a tried and true approach to showcasing a particular facet of Crown The Empire’s sound that comes across likeable even for first time listeners.
Fuelled by frontman Andy Leo’s emotions regarding an unusual and jarring dream, “In Another Life” is loud, a tad existential, and features bassist Hayden Tree and Spiritbox’s own Courtney LaPlante lending their voices to echo the song’s intensity.
Before delving into “Superstar (feat. Remington Leith)”, it’s advised that preconceived notions of what this Crown The Empire and Palaye Royale crossover is supposed to sound like are tossed out the window. It’s unique, minimalistic, and doesn’t rely too heavily on either respective band’s signature elements to get its message across. The result is a satire akin to Nickelback’s “Rockstar”, complete with acoustic guitar and 2000’s radio pop influence tailored for a Gen Z audience, that glamorizes the perceived lifestyles of musicians who make it in the city of Los Angeles.
Those awaiting a relentlessly heavy moment will relish the atmosphere of “Dancing with the Dead”, and “Immortalize” and closer “Labyrinth” offer more of what listeners previously acquainted themselves with on the album.
While this may not be the album that moves the needle very far for long-time listeners or the one that demonstrates the band pushing boundaries beyond their capabilities, it’s quite possibly their most straightforward release yet. ‘DOGMA’ represents a great deal of honesty and determination for Crown The Empire, offering a modestly diverse selection worth celebrating.