It's now time for our 127th monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, and first of 2020, as we're taking a look at St. Ignace, Michigan progressive metal band Heavy Lies The Crown's debut EP "Scatter Brain"! The pictured cover artwork is a recreation of the physical copies, and the font I used for the album name is admittedly inaccurate. Independently released online on September 9th in advance of their Saginaw debut that month (with hard copies following in November), this EP was produced by Danny Vail and recorded in early 2019. The disc features singer Brandon West, guitarist Ted Olson, bassist Danny Tucker, and drummer Cale Krist, though "Scatter Brain" was recorded before Nathan Switzer joined the band on second guitar. H.L.T.C. did debate re-recording it with Nathan, but the original recordings are what is on the final product. Physical copies run for just $4, while you can stream the EP on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, and YouTube.
I do not know if CDs are on sale at a local retailer in the Eastern Upper Peninsula (Crooked Music, maybe?), but contact the band directly if you want to get hooked up, especially as they have yet to play a true local concert. Featuring four songs running for almost 13 minutes, let's begin this review!
"Thing 1", which has a soft and deliberate opening that nicely builds in instrumentation, with the soft vocals giving a Deftones-ish vibe early, but when the song puts the pedal down in the chorus, the aggression amps up well. Brandon's harsh screaming reminds me very much of Cameron Heacock from American Head Charge, which is not a bad thing! The song is well performed with nice intricate playing, and the late breakdown is a nice touch, but it doesn't feel as heavy and assaulting as it should, with the guitar almost buried in the mix. Next up is the EP's shortest song, "Choke", which is a full-on extreme metal song that is very nu metal-inspired. This has the pounding metal background I missed on "Thing 1", and it's a great showcase for Brandon in particular, though Ted's guitar work shines while it lasts, and Cale's drumming is at full force, especially on the bridge. Very entertaining song, if not as technically sound as the opener was!
Third on the disc is "Knucklebutter", which is another ferocious ripper of a song, though with more of a gradual and drawn out pace that suits the drumming and bass line really well, and the galloping riff is a nice touch. The pained clean vocals at the mid-point is too forced to me, and the background chatter and laughing late adds nothing to the song, but the sum is greater than the parts. "Choke" has the speed and intensity edge, but "Knucklebutter" feels like a more complete, fully realized song, and it's my favourite on the EP! The closing track is "Time Diffuser", which has a nice guitar melody intro (possibly the best guitar line of the disc) that pairs nicely with Cale's rapid fire drums. Like the opener, this alternates softer verses with aggressive choruses, but it's a shorter song, yet more inventive musically, and the rhythm contrasts well with the heavier elements. My big problem with the song is it (and consequently, the EP) ends so abruptly, when it felt like it should go on much longer, but it's solid until then!