Crown the Empire’s “Retrograde” hits big with hardcore fans

“Retrograde” by Dallas native Crown the Empire does well with fans but still doesn’t have what it takes to grow and expand

Crown the Empire’s “Retrograde” hits big with hardcore fans

Crown the Empire out of Dallas, Texas is back again with its thorough-bred hardcore album “Retrograde.” It has all of the facets of a successful hardcore album, but it needs a lot of work.

Pop punk and hardcore music lives by a different set of standards than most other genres. Artists in these genres prioritize accessibility, general sound and potential for a good live performance before anything else. In order to enjoy this album, you either have to be part of that scene, or you have to be open to absolutely everything.

“Retrograde” is not a bad album. It flows about as well as I would expect it to, and the passion and effort put forth into the project is apparent. The main problems with this album have to do with the production. Bluntly, it doesn’t sound good.

One of my biggest gripes with hardcore music as a whole is that producers generally make the music sound muddled as if they expect the average fan to listen with five-dollar headphones and not really know the difference. Retrograde sounds like it was produced with the wall-of-sound technique, which is when all the sound is leveled the same way and feels flat. Very few successful bands still use this production method, and Crown The Empire doesn’t use it successfully.

Most of the songs start off with tame vocals, some with harmonies, and eventually evolve into screamo. The instrumentals are fast and upbeat and there’s generally a lot going on in every song. I could understand why fans like that, and I could see why that would be a good formula for a live show. But for a studio album, it just translates to poor production quality.

This album sounds too loud or too soft, and I can’t find a perfectly medium volume at which to play it. And for all of you that got a new laptop with free Beats headphones, this album will blow your eardrums out because of all the bass.

The album’s biggest production pitfall is the lack of separation of instruments. It’s difficult to tell where the lead guitar ends and the rhythm guitar starts. The drums are way too loud, you can’t hear the bass guitar at all, and all three singers sound like the same guy with a bit of autotune.

This album is very hard to physically listen to. But that’s not Crown the Empire’s main goal. Crown the Empire’s main goal was to make music that speaks to fans and music that they could slip into a live set and have the audience dancing, moshing and having a great time.

The first time I listened to this album my first thought was “wow this sounds like ‘Three Days Grace.’” I kept on thinking about how it sounded like other artists that were more talented and more popular. This is kind of a double edged sword because it means that the band has the right idea, but doesn’t know how to distance themselves from the pack yet.

“Retrograde” sounds like it would be successful with that. These songs are hard and fast. Any fan of this genre would be really happy with this release. However, it isn’t anything particularly unique.

A band’s third release is a crucial time for them to really showcase what they can do and start mapping the direction they want to go. This album sounds like it’s coming from a band that still plays seven song sets in the early afternoon at Warped Tour.

What Crown the Empire severely needs is refinement. The band needs to raise its production quality and work on making its general sound more unique and genuine. “Retrograde” isn’t a bad album necessarily, but there’s so much wasted potential and the band shouldn’t be content with a cult-following of a fan base.

I had never heard of Crown the Empire until a couple of months ago when one of my friends mentioned that she was excited to see them at Warped Tour. “Retrograde” was a wasted opportunity to grow the band’s following, and it’s a shame this is an album that I wouldn’t recommend to my friends. The band’s diehard fan base is one of the most passionate I’ve ever seen, and on some level I just don’t understand why people make such a fuss about this band.

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