Black Crown Initiate: Band Of The Day

By on 1 October 2013

BCI photo

There’s a strong possibility of this band, Black Crown Initiate, becoming a really huge thing in this metal world that we love. The American quintet ticks all the right boxes – the tight musicianship, the emotion, the meaningful lyrics, and the sense of reality, which appears to be very focused without any chance of distraction. ‘Song of the Crippled Bull’ is their first work and a statement of “non-duality”. Terrorizer would like to invite everyone to enter this special world, reading the enlightening interview and listening to the astounding music. Welcome!

WORDS: Tiago Moreira

WHO ARE THEY: Black Crown Initiate
WHERE ARE THEY FROM: Reading, Pennsylvania (U.S.A.)
FOR FANS OF: Opeth, Death, Gojira
LATEST RELEASE: ‘Song of the Crippled Bull’ self-released


Could you tell us a little bit about the band’s background?
Andy Thomas: “James [Dorton, vocals], Nick [Shaw, bass] and I, we played in a band called Night Fire for a little while. Nick and I, left that band and we started this project and it was just the three of us. We didn’t really have any idea what would happen as far as what the music was going to became. We just wanted to do a record and we did it. We went to the studio, Atrium Audio in Pennsylvania, with Carson Slovak and we made the EP. Then we got Jeff [Willet] on drums, an awesome guy. He just reached out and said that he would play for us. We also have Rik Stelzpflug on guitar. He and I, we played in bands back in the day, so it was the kind of situation where we just asked him to join the band and… Here we are.”

Did you have a clear vision about how the band would (and should) sound?
AT: “Well, that’s a tough question. We knew that we wanted to make something, somewhat, that I guess is accessible, but not in a negative way. We knew that we just didn’t want to be like a technical death metal band. We want it to appeal to as many people as we could, but we also wanted to write really honest and emotional music. I think it’s really important to have emotion in music. Something that comes from a real place. So, that was intentional, but when we sat down to write, [pause] I actually wrote the first riff on the album and the last, and I knew that I had the beginning and the end of the EP and we kind of worked from there.”

How can you know that kind of shit? Creating two riffs and knowing where they will be in the end?
AT: “Well, I knew that, when I came up with the theme, that would be the definitive theme. The lyrics, they’re the same in the first and last song. I knew that was the point I was trying to make, basically everything is really FUCKED and it’s not going to get any better. That’s ok, I guess. Any glimpse of hope that you would see it’s going to be taken away. Repeatedly, for eternity! That’s the point.”

How much of an impact has each member’s background had in Black Crown Initiation?
AT: “I think it has a HUGE impact. Nick and I, we have been writing music for almost five years. Him and I, we know what each other expects and we know how to get that out of each other. But what’s cool is that now we have a group of five really talented individuals.”

James Dorton: “I agree with Andy, it plays a huge part of it.  You’re writing music of a certain calibre and you want to be expressed in a certain way, with a certain level of energy. For that it’s important to have a certain level of confidence with the people that you’re working with, and their level of capability to deliver the type of sound that you want and do so with conviction, precision and power. I think that the lineup that we have is exactly that. There’s a lack of inhibition in the music, which resulted from that.”

What’s really impressive is how the band sounds so tight, without having played any gigs, yet.
AT: “Thank you! You practice the hell out of your instrument. As far as a live band, you just try to play together as much as you can. Back to the compatibility that we have as musicians, like I said I’ve playing with Rik for almost 10 years, and with Nick for 5 years. Nick and I, we played with James for 3 years now.”

JD: “Yeah, and before that Rik and I, we played together briefly. And I knew Jeff too.”

AT: “I read, in the reviews that we got, people saying that we sound like a band that has been together for years. That happens because… You know, I’m 27 years old now. I’ve been doing this since I had 14 years old. It’s not a new thing for me, just happens to be the first thing that people have listened to.”

JD:” Yeah, I would say the same goes for myself. I’m 28 years old and the first band that I ever sang in was back in 1997. [laughs] Years of accumulated experience.”

AT: “I always knew that I would write something that I could stand behind. I just didn’t know when. When the opportunity to write and record this EP came up, I knew… In a way, this is my last attempt. I’m getting older. I knew that it would be a case of me putting EVERYTHING that I had and hope for the best. Thus far, the best is happening.”

Andy, what can you tell us about the creation process?
AT: “How we wrote the EP is… I would sit in my basement drinking beer and playing guitar, and I would come up with a riff or something. After that I would go to Nick’s house and we would seat down with a computer and I would say “Here’s an idea. How can we develop it?”, and we would experiment with different drum arrangements, different arrangements for two guitars, etc. That was basically how we wrote the EP. Nick knows how to get the best out of me.”

Nick Shaw: “Basically it was just Andy giving me riffs and I would try to structure the material and having coherency.”

AT: “For this EP it was just me and Nick creating the music and Andy delivering the monster vocals. We had to program the drums since we couldn’t get one in time, knowing the all material. We had the studio already booked so we just programed the drums. That’s not how it going to be in the next record.  We’re really looking forward to a collaborative process, since we there’s a huge amount of trust.”

Is there a thematic link between these four songs?
AT: “Basically, there are a couple of themes running through the album. Microcosmic and macrocosmic, in their nature. The overarching apparent theme is based on Hindu texts. A four stage cycle in the universe that goes from the creation to destruction, and then recreation.  And the last phase is called Caliuga. It’s a phase of complete depravity, everything is almost ruined. If I look around that’s what I see. It’s symbolized by iron, an extension of the Iron Age, and also by a one-legged bull. The first phase is known as the Golden Age, which you read about in all this different cultures, but that’s symbolized by a bull with all his legs. We’re now living in the age of the one-legged bull, which is what The Song Of The Crippled Bull is all about.

“Though lyrically, a big part of the EP is about one looking at the world and feeling completely hopeless, which I think anyone with a brain feels. For example, our government, particularly, is destroying everything. The other part of the lyrics is about women, and my shit experiences with them.”

Can we say that Carson Slovak in this EP was like a member of the band? He’s responsible for producing the album and creating the artwork.
AT: “Yes! Carson is a mellow, funny cat and we will be working with him again in the future, for sure.  Everything was completely written by the time we hit the studio. The only things that we experimented with: some of the guitar solos were sort of improvised; the vocals suffered some changes like in the end of the song “The Mountain Top”. Carson has a good sensibility as far as “Put another vocal harmony here”, kind of stuff. We love Carson.”

What about the artwork? It’s amazing.
AT: “Yeah. We didn’t have any artwork when we were in to make the EP. I was talking with Carson… I knew he did artwork, but I didn’t know to what expect and I explained to him that I was very fascinated with Tibetan culture. If you follow the history of Tibet, that’s a really tragic thing as well, back to everything being fucked. That Tibet aesthetic is kind of the overall “theme” in this artwork, and it’s funny because he says to me, at one point, “Oh I’ve been in Tibet when I was a kid. I went there with my dad”. I don’t know, the way everything worked out is very strange. It’s like everything was supposed to happen it did, and that’s a cool feeling.”

You guys named “non-duality” as being an influence. Why?
AT: “Because everything is completely interconnected to everything else, and there isn’t multiple things when you get to true. It’s one thing.”

But there are a lot of people that will say that BCI have duality, sound wise.
AT: “Ahh, but we aim to not have duality in the sound. I think that’s why it’s cohesive. A lot of bands it’s like, here’s this section and here’s another section, and it’s like ten different things.”

Many people will say that BCI is kind of an American version of the Swedish band, Opeth.
AT: “We are all fans of Opeth, without a doubt. For me Opeth is a huge influence, so when people say that I sound like Opeth… That’s not a bad thing for me. I remember when James and I were in another band, going on tour and talking about stuff, I remember saying that I would like to do music with a lot of appeal. When you look at Opeth, you see thousands of people seeing them in shows and listening to their music. For me, that happens because of the emotion in Opeth’s music, and not because of the death metal.”

October 18th is an important date for BCI, since it’s the first live show of the band.
AT: “It’s a great opportunity for us. It’s the album release show of this band, Rivers of Nihil. They just got signed to Metal Blade Record and they’re great friends of ours. We came from the same area and I watched their evolution until now, where they grow into the power-house they are today. We have this opportunity of opening for them and it’s an honor. Since it’s our first show, we are definitely excited to the opportunity of going on stage and crush everything.”


About Kez Whelan

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