Review: Crown Lands – ‘Crown Lands’

Having teased the taste buds with acoustic EP ‘Wayward Flyers Volume 1’, Canadian duo Crown Lands go one better and deliver the entree with the release of their self-titled debut album.

You might be familiar with the strapline quoting Crown Lands Kevin Comeau (guitar/bass/keyboards) as saying; “We joke around, what if the White Stripes covered Rush?”. As far as quotes go, it’s a good starting point, but there is much more to Comeau and his hard-rocking amigo Cody Bowles (vocals/drums) than simply putting high pitched vocals over multiple versions of ‘Seven Nation Army’ or ’Icky Thump’.

Opener ‘Spit It Out’ is fuzz of the highest order, courtesy of Kevin Comeau. If you ever need proof that men can indeed multitask then check out live footage of Crown Lands on Youtube and marvel at Comeau’s gorgeous double-neck as he switches seamlessly between four and six strings. Watch his feet as he adds an atmospheric vibe through his array of pedal-operated keyboards. Combined with Bowles behind the kit bringing the groove, all the while laying down some impressive howling vocals, the end result is at times, staggering.

The aforementioned ‘Wayward Flyers Volume 1’ was a magical acoustic affair which gave off more than a hint of Zeppelin, here, plugged in, with lashings of prog-inspired keyboards to go with the fuzz and the thunder from Bowles, you will still pick up a snifter of Zeppelin, along with tips of the hat to Rush, Yes, and Genesis. ‘River’ displays a subtle Alex Lifeson influence here and there, more in the background melodies, while the foreground has guitar fireworks exploding everywhere. The keyboard and synth arrangements give Crown Lands an edge over similar bands that you might lump them in with, meaning tracks such as ‘Leadfoot’ are more expansive than straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll. When the pair lock into a groove (‘Howlin’ Back’, where the drum work from Bowles steals the show), it’s nigh on impossible to get swept up in the air of sheer exuberance and joie de vivre that the track delivers in its two short minutes.

Following on from the rush of ‘Howlin’ Back’, is the powerful, hard-hitting ‘End Of The Road’. As Comeau describes; “The song references the Highway of Tears, an infamous highway in North British Columbia where a lot of Indigenous women go missing.” Cody Bowles is half Mi’kmaw, an indigenous tribe from Nova Scotia, and elaborates: “There’s been no recourse and no follow-up. It’s systemic in Canada—there are so many roadblocks that prevent any progress from happening or any reconciliation moving forward, so we’re trying to raise awareness that this is happening in a country that claims to be very progressive and safe for threatened, vulnerable people.” On this particular track, Crown Lands show again that they have more tricks up their sleeves, by mashing ‘Moving Pictures’ era Rush, and ‘90125’ era Yes, with a modern edge, complete with an almighty guitar solo to blow the barn doors off.

Although ‘End Of The Road’ is a towering moment, it’s the last ten minutes of the album; ‘Forest Song’ followed by ‘Sun Dance’, that impresses the most. The former is a feisty little number with multiple changes in direction, so much so that at times the listener doesn’t know what to expect next. The guitar solo towards the end of the track is for lack of a better expression; fucking sublime. The latter has a trippy, meandering, first few minutes, that give way to a crescendo of sound and colour on a track that gets better with each listen. A stunning way to bring the album to an end.

‘Crown Lands’ is seven-tracks and twenty-something minutes long, which could give the impression that it might be fairly basic, and lack substance or depth. Something that couldn’t be further from the truth if it tried. An expansive album which sucks the listener in and gives the illusion that they’ve been under its spell for a much longer time…”..how long was I gone for?”…”26 minutes mate”…”…really?!”.

No meat and two veg, by-the-numbers, stereotypical rock duo, Crown Lands make music that has you checking behind the curtain for smoke and mirrors, only to discover that it really is just two dudes.

Purchase here.

Review – Dave

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