The Crown has stolen my heart many times in the past: Hell Is Here made me happy; 14 Years of No Tomorrow made me cry; and Deathrace King gave me the biggest chubby you could EVER imagine, but I felt it was my duty as a fanboy to hunt down my favorite band's demos that were long gone, and guess what: I did. SCORE!
Yes, I somehow got The Crown's first two demos, but it's the first one that I'm most proud of. The band's first ever release, titled Forever Heaven Gone, was the birth of this divine squad and how they could improve Swedish metal for years to come. 1993 was the release date of this special tape, and listening to it can only make me think how powerful it must have been to witness the creation of all these hybrid tracks. The material here isn't so much the dominating Gothenburg traces on The Crown's first two records, but a fine representation of old-school death metal with melodic traces hovering about in the best way possible.
I'm very familiar with every item The Crown produced, and it wouldn't take a genius to figure out the group transformed their identity several times. You can see the Gothenburg roots on The Burning, the thrash touches on Deathrace King, and the death metal assault on Crowned In Terror, yet The Crown even had some influences forcefully overrunning other musical elements on the Forever Heaven Gone demo. The melodic death influences were strong at this time, but there is an overwhelming presence of classic death metal shifting through most of this demo's material, especially the tracks that never made the full-length cut. It's easy to notice how the riffs sound wonderfully death metal-orientated, and how Johan Lindstrand's growls have never gotten this deep into the earth's crust in anything he's ever done.
Given the squad's Swedish origin, it would be fairly overt that The Crown would include melodic herbs in their metallic melting pot. It's quite common to hear a short slice of melodic riffing or a nice chunk of tremolo picking in tiny parts, yet a few of the tracks are solely focused on these two elements; "Lord of the Rings" and "Beyond Where Darkness Dwells" are totally covered in Gothenburg worship, yet it's still easy to find other melodic influences in many other tracks. This demo also seemed to revolve around a formulated way of balancing between death metal and Gothenburg: more death metal equals less melodic moments. "Seventh Gate," for example, is a blistering assault without any Gothenburg scenes at all, whilst "Diachronic Damnation" is evenly split with brutal death metal moments and epic melodic tones. It's certainly amazing to experience the unique intersection connecting the two genres in such a pleasant way.
"Lord of the Rings" and "Forever Heaven Gone" are the only tunes to appear on The Crown's debut, but there are some noteworthy upgrades here that actually sound better than the final cuts. For starters, "Lord of the Rings" has brief intervals of clean guitar interludes, awesome double-tracked vocals, a magical mid-paced break filled with slow instrumentation, and a sexy solo that was eventually removed for unknown reasons. I own The Crown's debut where the final adaptation of "Lord of the Rings" is featured, and the demo version is clearly the better of the two; it's a real shame they omitted all this stuff, because the rough draft is a lot more professional and effective than what appeared on The Burning. Unlike the version of the title track on The Crown's debut, "Forever Heaven Gone" has no opening sample, but it suddenly explodes with pure energy when the tune starts instead of the few seconds of burning fire on The Burning. Not only that, but it's much rawer and aggressive than the last take on The Crown's debut. Are these two tunes better on the original demo than the actual full-length itself? I think so.
Historical imprints were made on Forever Heaven Gone that would impact The Crown's musical journey until they split up in 2004. "Beyond Where Darkness Dwells" marks an important phase in The Crown's history, because it's the first known Gothenburg-laden track that eventually inspired much of their material on the band's debut, and all other full-length releases from then on. It's also necessary to point out the monster tremolo picking section on "Diachronic Damnation" was used a decade later on The Crown's final LP, "Possessed 13," and is featured on the relentless "Zombified." Pretty cool, huh?
I find this demo to be very enjoyable for several reasons, but mainly because it holds a nice balance of furious death metal and soothing Gothenburg melodies; a combination many have attempted, and only few have done right. Every song that vanished into the infinite vortex is simply masterful, and the tunes that survived the record chop look better than they ever have before. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to say demos really don't get any better than this.