Black Crown Initiate might be the world's smartest prog metal band

Black Crown Initiate

Craving a new breed of progressive metal that speaks on a philosophical level, Pennsylvania’s Black Crown Initiate have teamed guttural heaviness with key moral messages for three trailblazing years. Guitarist and clean vocalist Andy Thomas tells us it’s a long way to the top if you want to break the status quo of a constantly evolving genre.

“I’ve always adored guitars that sound like monster trucks, fast drums and the sonic aesthetic of heavy metal,” Andy tells Hammer. “But I can’t relate to some bands’ visual and lyrical images – if you’re singing about zombies and outer space, I don’t get it. I can only write about things I know or experience, things that are of this Earth.”

Paying musical homage to their heroes Metallica and Opeth, second album Selves We Cannot Forgive showcases the conflict between Andy’s heavenly tones and James Dorton’s hell-bound vocal cords, set to foreboding electrics and machine-gun drums.

“From the start, we were determined to play on the different dynamics of metal – loud and soft, fast and slow. Hopefully our voices reflect it as well as the guitars because I’m not a natural singer; I started singing when we couldn’t get anyone else!”

Incorporating Andy’s lifelong interest in philosophy, Black Crown Initiate approach Nietzsche’s theories and even Buddhist ideology in their lyrics to craft a new breed of heaviness that looks beyond the riffs and sticks.

“I’m a very critical thinker so I try and interpret everything my own way. You can’t take somebody’s word for everything, even if it’s one of the great philosophers because there’s a lot, they didn’t know. My mom still talks about this Buddhism phase I went through in fourth grade. I’m not even Buddhist, it’s just a beautiful culture.”

Andy’s academic inspirations drive Black Crown Initiate to invite others to their thoughtful metal niche, fuelled by his views of political stagnation in the US and a determination to question everything.

“I want to get a message out there: learn to think critically and start questioning things. That’s what’s wrong with the planet: everyone’s carrying on without debating. I live in a country wherethe two presidential candidates are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It’s ludicrous that people are happy that a racist is possibly going to run this country. We need to change that.”


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Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.