For passive listeners of metalcore, the genre may seem like one of the most watered down, overpopulated styles in quite some time. Bands that resort to flash in the pan “brutality” can take the blame for that one. Simply put, most emerging bands are ill-equipped copycats. There are some, though, that come through as something more. And then, there are some that have the potential to leave an innovative mark. I believe With Crown and Tail, with their debut EP Europa, is one of those bands.
Album opener “Redemption” begins with chanting vocals and electronics that flow straight into what seems like a pretty standard song, until Bryan Zimmerman (ex-Sky Eats Airplane) begins to sing. As he swoons you into the chorus, it’s already apparent that the vocals are far superior to the majority of the scene’s vocalists. You also begin to hear the interesting and complex rhythmic composition, compliments of drummer Matthew Owen and bassist Anthony Smith. After a string of nifty electronics and the infectious vocal melodies of “Ballad of a Paralyzed Mind,” guitarists Kyle Hoffer and Evan Dingman join the ranks of talented contemporaries such as Zack Ordway (ex-Sky Eats Airplane), Nick Sampson (I Am Abomination), and Zack Hansen and Tony Pizzuti (The Word Alive). Two tracks in and it’s conclusive that all members of With Crown and Tail are very talented and technical musicians.
The summation of this comes in the form of “Nothing Left to Love,” a plethora of style, advanced instrumentation, and excellent songwriting. The interesting part of the song is the band’s ability to completely maintain momentum, through the screamed verses to the unbelievably catchy chorus. Though not “heavy” throughout, there is an unrelenting quality of this song that I have never heard in this style of metal. The song comes to a close with Phil Druyor (I Am Abomination) and Zimmerman switching off vocal duties and a gentle electronic play-out that seems to just seal the deal. The last two tracks seem to only further exhibit the band’s skill, with “Fairweather” relaying a wild breakdown very reminiscent of the Sound of Symmetry EP and “The Hereafter” relating a heartfelt vocal delivery and an overall substantial conclusion to a remarkable EP.
Europa is not flawless though. There are moments of awkward melodic direction that can be off-putting, yet these are not often and do not last long enough to negate from the success of the overall track. The production (though purposefully stylized) can at times be distracting and could better accentuate low-end and electronic flairs that have been incorporated. And finally, the brevity of the EP can be sweet and sour; while adequately showcasing the band’s abilities, you may ultimately feel like you want more. But it’s better to want more than have too much. All that being said, this is a damn fine EP that surpasses the output of many and most of metalcore’s juggernauts. With further exploration into their sound and with more time to establish a wider fan base, the band is poised to be one of the most innovative in the genre. Be on the lookout for With Crown and Tail.