Crom - Of love and death 4.5/5

Reviewed: 5-1-12


1. Reason to live
2. Lifetime
3. Just one blink
4. My song for all the broken hearts
5. My destiny
6. This dying world
7. Eternal dreaming
8. The fallen beauty 2010

Here we have a welcome return from Germany’s Crom. This is essentially a one-man band consisting of Walter “Crom” Grosse, who is responsible for vocals, choirs, guitars and bass, as well as songwriting, arranging and producing. A live drummer (no drum machine) lays down the beats, and someone named “V. Santura” helps out with some of the technical recording aspects, plus choirs and a few guitar parts. Crom’s debut CD, ‘Vengeance’, from 2008 was a mesmerizing slab of doomy epic true metal, in the vein of Doomsword/Battleroar meets ‘Twilight of the gods’-era Bathory. But it took more than 3 long years for Crom’s latest CD, ‘Of love and death’, to hit the shelves. The delay is curious, because the booklet reflects that all music on ‘Of love and death’ was recorded between June and July 2006, which is precisely when ‘Vengeance’ was recorded. So both Crom CDs were recorded at the same time, more than 5 years ago, with the only difference being that the vocals, mix and mastering on ‘Of love and death’ were done in the 2009 – 2010 time period. It makes me wonder how much other original Crom material Grosse has written, recorded and stockpiled over the years? And how did he decide which songs to use for which CD?

What’s fascinating, in light of the back story, is that ‘Of love and death’ is very, very different from its predecessor. Oh, it’s still immediately recognizable as Crom. Those swelling Bathory choirs and gently strummed acoustic guitars melded with massive power chords and Grosse’s soul-stirring crystal-clear mid-range voice, as well as the distinctly epic bent to the writing, are all firmly entrenched here. But this is altogether a more contemplative, somber piece of work than ‘Vengeance’ was. Overall, I’d say that ‘Of love and death’ is less chest-beating true metal, less ‘Twilight of the gods’, and less viking metal, but more melodic, more gothic, and more intensely personal and introspective than ‘Vengeance’. Before the more-metal-than-thou crowd recoils in horror, let me elaborate. This new CD absolutely still has those Doomsword and Bathory elements, but they are toned down and leavened with new elements. For example, the song “Just one blink” reminds me quite a bit of ‘Icon’/‘Draconian times’-era Paradise Lost. There’s also a pervasive somber vibe in music, lyrics and overall emotional gravitas that has me thinking of While Heaven Wept. And if that’s not enough, there are several parts where vocals and melodies sound a bit like Sonata Arctica at their darkest. Confused yet?

Clearly, squeezing ‘Of love and death’ into a neat little stylistic box is a fool’s errand. Somehow I get the feeling that this is exactly what Mr. Crom himself had in mind. When all is said, I think the only category in which this music belongs is “great music”. That’s because Grosse has penned a truly fantastic batch of tunes here. The songs are stunningly melodic and beautifully memorable, and they pack a considerable emotional wallop. Most of them are in the 6-minute range, combining distorted metal riffs with prominent acoustic guitars, clever arrangements and enough hooks to keep a Minnesota trout fisherman in business all summer long. Leadoff track “Reason to live” may lack the pyrotechnical immediacy of “Wings of fire” from the debut, but it’s a brilliant song that sets the tone of the CD perfectly. “Lifetime” is more subdued, but it’s a shimmering classic that sends the listener reeling with its heartfelt expression of anguish at the loss of a true love. Make no mistake: The lyrical subject matter is relentlessly bleak. Grosse sings of unrequited love, departed love, and the death of one’s love (or oneself) throughout this CD, so the title ‘Of love and death’ is certainly apt. Do yourself a favor and don’t play these songs at a family barbecue or beach outing, lest you be banished as a Debbie Downer. Raucous metal party music this ain’t. It won’t resonate with everybody, and some dyed-in-the-wool power metal fiends may not “get it”.

But for a certain mood at a certain time, ‘Of love and death’ is damn near perfect. You know, those times when you’re sitting alone in the late-night darkness and you can’t sleep, so you’re sipping on a cold beer and quietly contemplating life while the person you love most in this world slumbers peacefully in the next room. Times when you just don’t feel like hoisting your fiery iron sword in triumph or frolicking with drunken dwarves in the enchanted forest or crushing the paper-thin skulls of poseurs with a battering ram from hell. Times when you might reach for a While Heaven Wept CD or a Paradise Lost CD or Bathory’s ‘Twilight of the gods’. For moments like that, one would be hard-pressed to find a more fitting musical accompaniment than Crom’s ‘Of love and death’. The music and lyrics fit together seamlessly, and the emotional heft of the CD remains intact and unbroken throughout its 45-minute running time. In less melodramatic terms, if you enjoy melodic epic European metal, are up for something a bit different from the norm, and aren’t turned off by a mega dose of melancholy, then ‘Of love and death’ just might be a new favorite late-night listen in your collection. It is for me.




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