Album Review: Crowned By Fire - "Space Music for Cave People"

Look, we’ve had this conversation before and we’ve had it on these very pages. There will always be a place for a record like “Space Music for Cave People.” For all of metal’s twists and turns and evolutions both positive and negative, there is an intrinsic feeling of ‘home’ amidst the dirty, blues-base of overdriven thunder the likes of which is Crowned By Fire’s exclusive stock in trade.

What makes this record work and by extension what makes Crowned By Fire work so well, is that their songs are not at all touched with pretension or image. They’re not trying to be something or project some far-flung, extrapolated idiom. The band simply is; that’s probably understating it, but damn it, it’s that simple. In the throngs of bands that proclaim to keep the original, Black Sabbath-originated spirit of heavy metal alive, only a small cross-section can actually argue that they understand the purpose of Sabbath and what the music was meant to achieve. Clutch still has one foot in that group and Red Fang, Blood Ceremony and Devil to Pay pretty clearly get it. Crowned By Fire is solidly on that short list. This new compendium, much in the same vein as their previous full-length “Prone to Destroy,” chugs along with power and authority without reaching for unnecessary gimmickry. Somewhere in the smoky din of songs about destruction and demolition, CBF keeps a certain sense of fun just outside the margins of their presentation, and it makes all the difference.

Musically, there’s not a ton of change from “Prone to Destroy,” and that’s a damn good thing. The distinguishing characteristic of Crowned By Fire has always been the bludgeoning insistence of their sound. There is a feeling of impending calamity when you listen to their music, the great and terrible shambling of a massive beast crowning over the horizon. The monster can’t be stopped, distracted, or redirected; it’s simply coming. “Space Music for Cave People” shows us the fact of this beast in the pounding of “Light ov the Voodoo Star,” a deeply churning destructive heart that keeps a Jason Voorhees like pace right up until a double kick burst at the end (and I mean classic Jason, not Michael-Bay-BS-Jason.) It’s very much the same musical color as “Sex With a Ghost” from their previous effort, but more refined and with increased menace.

The rest of the record reflects the influences and contemporaries of Crowned By Fire, but put through the lens of amp-splitting gain and the tongue-in-cheek hubris that comes with confidence in one’s craft. Tommy Victor of Prong makes an appearance on the appropriate doomy and oddly catchy “Buried Away” and the title track flows over whitewater rapids with the same kind of cosmic hammer that’s commonly associated with Monster Magnet.

Earning particular distinguish on this six-song rip is guitarist Justin Manning, who not only knows when to back off and let his colossal rhythm section do the work for him, but adds incredible accents with surprisingly articulate solos in the interims. His juxtaposed dance with the raspy, road-grated vocals of John Fitterer add depth to the record in a way that’s uncommon for metal of this type.

If you’ve ever even pretended to be a fan of the basic hallmark tenets of heavy metal, do what it takes to procure this record and add it to your collection. It’s a fantastically powerful thirty-minute tour-de-force of heavy metal’s roots, and not to be missed.

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