Album Review: Retrograde – Crown The Empire

crown the empire - cte


Dallas-based post-hardcore band, Crown The Empire is about to release their 3rd full-length studio album titled ‘Retrograde’. Formed in 2010 and consisting of Andrew ‘Andy Leo’ Velasquez, David Escamilla, Brandon Hoover, Brent Taddie, Hayden Tree, the band clearly have been busy in studio and the road on tour. Having released an EP, 2 full-length albums and now releasing a third one, they had their headline tour in 2014 with supporting acts from Ice Nine Kills, Volumes and Secrets and now playing the Vans Warped Tour all summer, Crown The Empire is slowly emerging as the band to watch in the metalcore/post-hardcore scene.

When Crown The Empire emerged onto the scene already saturated by bands adopting the screamed-verse melodically-sung-clean chorus, many would think they might just be another one of these bands. This might be true when listening to their previous 2 albums. With ‘Retrograde’ Crown The Empire is quick to show their talent and that their high ambitions of exceeding the metalcore scene.  While their debut album The Fallout suggests that this is a band still trying to find themselves in the scene yet showing glimpses of their talents, their second album The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways has shown what this band is capable of. Their storytelling approach is refined, at the same time, giving fans a cinematic experience through their album. Yet there may be some doubts still as to where the band is going with this. Will they succeed in their own high ambitions of trying to exceed the metalcore scene? Or will they fall short and just be another mainstream metalcore band? Their new album ‘Retrograde’ is the perfect answer to this.

Retrograde is the album that truly sees the band’s talent reaching (if not) exceeding their potential. The opening track ‘SK-8’ provides the perfect introduction and a reminder of the band’s storytelling approach through a cinematic experience which may seem to feel like the opening scenes of a movie. Yet this is much more than just a movie. The combination of string instruments coupled with distinct piano notes at the beginning with the addition of what seem like a choir full of voices towards the end is the band bringing fans in on this experience and journey with them on this album. If this isn’t enough of an invitation, it is definitely clear in the next song of the album ‘Are You Coming With Me’. The song opens up with their signature use of a spoken-word monologue which lectures on how “the Earth is watched by beings more intelligent than man”. Here the theme of the album is revealed. Pounding drum beats and Dave Escamilla’s clean vocals on the verse suggest the band is trying to deviate from their usual screamed-verse, sung chorus routine, and instead we hear Escamilla’s clean vocals mostly throughout the song accompanied with crowd chants. This song showcases Escamilla’s ability to be a co-frontman of the band rather than a second vocalist accompanying Andy Leo. The clap-along beats and sing-along verses with constant crowd chants gives a ‘live show’ feel which serves to show the band trying to involve fans and immersing them in the song. While this might be something new, the next song ‘Zero’ is a reminiscent of what Crown The Empire is. Escamilla’s screamed on the verses and Andy Leo’s melodic clean vocals on the chorus serves a reminder of the bands roots. At this point, fans might be expecting more of the heaviness which they’re so used to listening in the bands previous albums. The next song, ‘Aftermath’ is quick to wipe these memories away. Again, we hear more of Escamilla’s clean vocals on the verse, something we don’t hear much in their previous albums, with Leo’s on the choruses.

Fans might already be familiar with the next song ‘Hologram’ having been released as a single by Rise Records through the band’s Youtube channel. ‘Hologram’ is just about everything the band is trying to achieve in this album. Their now improved utilizations of different instruments, electronica effects, catchy sing-along chorus, clap along beats are showing a new, refined and polished Crown The Empire. Their clever use of spoken-word monologue in the middle of the song suggests improve songwriting and musicianship, also the band’s concept is prominently alive throughout, unlike the scattered and oddly time used in their previous albums. When in previous albums we see the band flirting with new instruments and electronica in their music, this song showcases the complete package. It is clear that the band is already surpassing the metalcore scene and exceeding their own ambitions and that they are aspiring to be more than just the mainstream metalcore band we see alot today. ‘The Fear is Real’ serves as an interlude in the album, with mostly electronica and instrumental.  “Lucky Us’ might just be the heaviest track on this album suggesting that the band might be deviating from their usual self but definitely not from the metalcore/post-hardcore genre. Their next song ‘Weight of the World’ sounds new and almost entirely different from their other songs in the album. Featuring mostly clean vocals, catchy beats and sounds almost Green Day-esque in the chorus, except for the occasional screams from Escamilla that is. This just proves how much talent the band actually has which has finally been revealed in this album. ‘Signs of Life’ just proves how Dave Escamilla is capable as a co-frontman and complementing Andy Leo perfectly. Already at this moment it is clear that in this album the band has a less heavy and aggressive approach, though some fans might be disappointed with this, others may find it exciting and interesting to what the band has to offer in the future. Also, an indication of the band’s willingness to get away from the mainstream metalcore scene and instilling a new sound unique to them. ‘Oxygen’ offers a more slowed down tempo with almost entirely sung in clean vocals which has been awhile since we heard that from the band, though some might recall the piano acoustic of ‘Lead Me Out of the Dark’ from The Fallout.

Retrograde is the album that truly reveals the talent and potential they so much struggle to show in the past. From being supporting acts to more established bands to performing their first headlining tour in 2014 and playing on main stages of Warped Tour 2016, it won’t be long before Crown The Empire reaches out to more audiences and turning them into fans.


Retrograde is available for pre-order here and is to be released on July 22nd via Rise Records.



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