Scepter & Crown

Album Title: 
Baltimore E.P.
Release Date: 
Monday, November 23, 2020
Review Type: 

I have no idea about the background of this collective, called Scepter & Crown. I think it is a newly formed band, which consists of the members S (guitars and vocals, as well as the main lyrics), G (drums), and H (textures). The trio hails from Maryland, and more specifically from the city of Baltimore. In January, these three humans (at least, that’s what I think, but after a couple of listens, I am not sure anymore) recorded a handful of songs at the Sagamore Pendry Hotel in their home city, and therefore (I do not think it is a coincidence, to be honest) the result is aptly called Baltimore.

Four tracks made it to that release, which is available via digital sources, of course, as well as on tape. That cassette edition was printed on ‘mirror gold’ tapes (golden coloured), evidently strictly limited; in this case limited to just 100 copies. It’s is not a ‘usual’ collection of compositions – at all – but that easily brought these three guys (or girls? I have no idea, as said) in contact with UK-based label Cult Of Osiris; the latter being known for lesser known, yet underestimated and / or unique combos from all over our beautiful globe.

The Baltimore mini-album opens with the title track, and that one immediately shows the eccentric face (a scarred face indeed it is) of this trio. Even though this lullaby lasts for four minutes, there is so much to experience. It blasts as from the very first moments, bringing a somewhat Crust / Punk injected form of Black Metal, based on sharp-sounding guitar leads, thunderous drums, groovy bass lines and wretched, throaty screams especially. Soon you’ll notice the variation in tempo and structure, with a couple of breaks, both decelerations and, then again, eruptional outbursts, and the addition of other vocal timbres (punky shouts and lower growls). At almost one minute and a half, for example, everything slows down, and the sarcastic identity shows that ugly, scar-laden face, with coughs and spoken words (indeed), before suddenly evolving into a short epic fragment; which, eventually, once again results in another lightning-fast blackened piece of underground nastiness. Waw, what a kick-off…

With Winners, Scepter & Crown tease the listener once again as from the very beginning. This ‘song’ gets introduced by a ritualistic chant, being a mixture of evocative, religious voices and some weird noises at the background. But the, after one simple gunshot, well, how can I decently describe this. It’s like Drum ’n ’Bass, Dub Step, Hip Hop, with low-tuned beats and programmed textures. But most remarkable are the spoken words, which are ultimately soar and wretched. The returning semi-Gregorian chants and the addition of samples and bad-ass basses makes this experience quite uncomfortable, but at the same time, in a masochistic was, quite interesting too.

The Ritz Cabaret, which is the shortest elegy with its length of nearly three minutes, once again draws its influences from another angle. It mingles elements from Dream Pop, Electro, Synthwave and Spacebient, canalizing all these things into an unusual, somewhat orbital and psychedelic adventure. It reminds me of the Eighties, when J. M. Jarre, Jan Hammer, Tangerine Dream or John Carpenter introduced a new vision on Electronic Music. But somehow, Scepter & Crown perform their own specific weird interpretation.

With the last composition, Boss Kvlt, the trio returns to the blackened approach of the opener, yet with a slower execution and an atmosphere much more related to the so-called Atmospheric of even DSBM-oriented scene. With a sound that reminds me of, for example, Ildjarn, Cryostasium, (early) Striborg or Anthropophobe (believe me, it does!), the unpolished rawness drenches the whole in a suffocating crepuscular murk, which works somehow intoxicating and suffocating. Here too, the speed and the basic song structure often evolves, and after a thorough dissection one cannot but accept the nice pedantical craftsmanship and creativity of this band.

The question is: will you deal with it, or not? A few listens are recommended; that’s a certainty, because after one listen you’ll be left confused. But as soon as you want to give it a second, and a third try, you will get overwhelmed by this mostly conceited, unaccustomed opportunity.