So…Crown The Empire are still around, huh? Not that that’s a surprise—wheel-spinning to this degree is such an integral trick of the trade for this generation of metalcore looking to stick around—but of all the bands to survive the purge of the late-period Warped Tour glut, they’re among the least necessary to keep. They’ve felt that way for a while too, and when the ‘best’ memories of them are tied to more theatrical early material that at least fitted with the zeitgeist, it’s not even hidden well. Crown The Empire really have gone down the list of past-their-prime metalcore hangers-on lately—albums that have left no impact; a poorly-aged sound; some sordid allegations; they’re all present and accounted for.
And as such, like a plethora of their compatriots of the same metalcore generation, Crown The Empire are still so boring to actually talk about. What even is there to say anyway? When they’re more concerned with merely staying afloat than advancing, of course the results are going to end up threadbare and uninspired. And that’s basically DOGMA, an album that’s here essentially to plug a hole, in both Crown The Empire’s release schedule, and in their sinking metalcore ship to keep some water out for a few extra milliseconds.
That’s the gut feeling with how startlingly anodyne DOGMA can be at times. Wasn’t the main fascination around Crown The Empire their big, bombastic, post-apocalyptic concepts, anyway? That’s been off the table for a bit now, but any trace has been totally scrubbed clean. The band have openly said that this is a less lofty, wordy album to more efficiently convey emotional directness, which probably isn’t the flex they think it is given how indistinguishable huge chunks of this can be. It’s the same suites of anxiety and depression and feeling like an outcast, none of which bear significantly more power or incisiveness from being ‘uncluttered’, as it were. Congrats for having your first ever song without clean vocals on Dancing With The Dead, boys, but it’d more impressive if it did anything to stick. Worse again is Superstar, a ‘fame bad’ song that’s exactly as generic and dead-eyed as you’d expect from the late-career slump of a band who peaked about a decade ago.
It’s also the least pleasant instrumentally, shrink-wrapped in vogue faux-detachment that makes the guest appearance from Palaye Royale’s Remington Leith make all too much sense. Not that DOGMA is a bastion of musical excellence elsewhere, mind. Clearly, Crown The Empire’s illusion of it being a good idea to slough off the core tenets of their brand has manifested here too, as the safe, expected modern metalcore sound domineers. At least the horrid static-fry of the title track’s production is never replicated, but it gives way to pedestrian melodic fare like Paranoid, or a reach for epic grandeur marred by a total lack of colour or spark like on Immortalize.
And yet, for as decidedly middle-of-the-road as DOGMA is, seemingly in perpetuity, it’s seldom outright bad. It’s forgettable to an almost ludicrous degree, but Crown The Empire’s quiet competence is ultimately what keeps them stable. It’s probably down to Andy Leo the most, as a decent singer whose similarities in timbre to Pierce The Veil’s Vic Fuentes only work to his advantage here. He’s responsible for some choruses big enough to actually stick the landing, namely In Another Life and Someone Else (even if the former does lose points for siloing away Spiritbox’s Courtney LaPlante into almost total anonymity; when she comes in, you can barely tell if it’s actually her singing or still Leo). On top of that, at least the album clearly makes use of the big budget it’s been given. That’s hardly a selling point when contemporary metalcore wants to scrape the edges of its boundaries by default, but it’s something, right? DOGMA isn’t exactly flushed with exciting qualities, so you take what you can get when it comes to aspects to praise.
It’s perhaps not the most useful tactic of criticism, but it’s apparently a necessity for a Crown The Empire album. There’s so little meat on these bones that getting into the weeds to grab onto anything has to be done, which is probably the most damning indictment possible. DOGMA isn’t even bad enough to thrash for a few paragraphs; it’s the work of a band who’ve permanently set up shop in metalcore’s no man’s land—functionally sound but ephemeral to the nth degree. If you want good metalcore, even in this vein, there is stuff out there if you look beyond acts like this, whose comfort as part of the scene’s furniture is all too obvious. And even as that furniture, Crown The Empire are mostly like an errant throw pillow on the floor—you push it to the side or get rid of it entirely, and no one would notice it’s gone.
For fans of: Like Moths To Flames, Secrets, Pierce The Veil
‘DOGMA’ by Crown The Empire is released on 28th April on Rise Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall