Artist: Crown the Empire
Album: The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways
Label: Rise Records
It seems to go that the best albums put forth are always concept albums. For those that keep a concept going for more than one release and continue to keep it fresh and interesting, I applaud the incredible effort put forth by these acts. There’s one act that stands tall among the rest, though. That band is none other than Dallas’ own Crown The Empire. In March 0f 2012, not even 2 years after they began their journey, they were scouted out by the infamous indie label, Rise Records. Along with the signing, they welcomed a new guitarist (Bennett “Benn Suede” Vogelman) and new vocalist (David Escamilla). Shortly after that, the band entered the studio with Joey Sturgis to record their debut album, The Fallout. Little did they know (or maybe they did) that this album would open doors to a massive concept. Peaking at an incredible #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, they knew they had done something right. What came next was a bit of a shock to fans everywhere: The re-recording of their debut EP, Limitless. This reimagining took an entirely different turn, focusing more on talent than effects and opened the spectrum up for them to try new things with their next album. Now, here we are… just over 3 months after the release of their critically-acclaimed sophomore release, The Resistance: The Rise of the Runaways. This album serves as a sequel to The Fallout and elaborates on the ruination that the antagonist “The Raven” has brought forth since he stripped away the identities of the people of Aeon City.
The album opens with “A Call to Arms (Act I)” which starts with a message from The Raven himself which goes like this:
“Dear citizens of the New Fallout,
For too long, our society has succumbed to the tyranny of our own actions
Wars, riots, we have tolerated the scum
And have graciously cleaned up the mess.
Well, no more!
You have all been a consequence of the disease known as freedom,
And now it is time to take that freedom away!
As of today, you will be stripped of your identity,
And anything you hold dear in life
For it is your individuality that has led to your destruction.
Your children will be left to rot as punishment for your indiscretion,
And the lives you have lived until now will be nothing but a memory.
This is for the survival of the race!
This is for the New Fallout!
This is the end!”
You then hear a female child’s voice speak and say “In the darkest night, the faintest light is blinding”, followed by Andy Leo’s unmistakable clean vocals proclaiming “For my fallen stars, banner men ready for your call to arms and for my broken hearts, it’s time to take back what we thought we’ve lost” and then Dave Escamilla explodes with “This is the resistance! It’s a call to arms! The anthem for all those that don’t belong, we’re here to take our stand! This is The Resistance! It’s been far too long that we’ve put all our faith in to the corrupt, it’s time to start the end!” I normally don’t put lyrics to entire songs in a review because it makes the review a little longer than needed, however, you will see my point in adding these lyrics later in the review.
The outro leads into “Initiation”… arguably one of the most well-written “harder” songs that CTE has released in their short career. This track introduces The Resistance and what they stand for. It also introduces “The Scarecrows”, The Raven’s police force that is designed to stop all those that seek to reclaim their previous lives. You’ll immediately notice, after listening to “Millennia”, where it ties into the whole concept. If you’ll recall, there are two lovers standing on the ruins of a city on the cover of The Fallout. “Millennia” elaborates the story that started with “Makeshift Chemistry” and “Two’s Too Many”. “I’ve been gone from this world for what seems like millennia, looking for nothing short of a miracle. I only ever wanted to come home, please won’t you let me go? When I have nowhere left I can run away, will you lie to me, tell me I’ll be okay? Close my eyes and lay me in my tomb, now pull the trigger and send me home!”
Once that melancholy feeling subsides, “Machines” begins. As you can imagine, this track is very key to the concept. The track is about breaking free from the chains of tyranny, put forth by The Raven and finding your former self. “If all we are is just machines, then let’s become a miracle and break free from these chains”. If you haven’t followed the band, you might not know that The Resistance is run by a fearless leader by the name of “Bones”. I believe this is something that Bones is saying in order to convince those who are afraid to join The Resistance and fight for what’s right.
The following two tracks make up the most perfect, cohesive track I’ve ever heard from the band. Starting with “The Wolves of Paris (Act II)”, which is an insanely creepy interlude and tells the story of a pack of wolves who sneak into town and wreak havoc during winter, simply going by their primal nature. Then… begins my favorite (and heaviest) track on the album, “MNSTR”. From the first time I heard Dave growl the haunting chorus “I am the ghost in the shadows, I am the fear of the dark. I am the murderer of apathy, an angel that’s fallen. I am the psycho, the sinner. I am what you can’t escape, I am the splinter underneath your skin… I am a MONSTER!!!” on a video of their recent Vans Warped tour stint… I knew this track would awaken a beast each time I heard it. As if channeled inside of you, each word spoken on this track feels as if you have entered Escamilla’s state of mind and are belting the words yourself. This track is about the inner demons we all have inside that struggle to get out. It’s about the beast inside overpowering you and destroying everything that you’ve worked so hard to build… it’s channeling all of the anger inside of you into one single track and exploding with each lyric. Do you feel scared yet? You should.
“Second Thoughts” is the track that seeps it’s way in as the anger subsides. This is a track about the fear that sets in with the ever-approaching footsteps of The Scarecrows. “I get so tired, lighting fires, when I know we still have so much further left we could go”. The beast has subsided but the damage is done and this Runaway is getting closer to getting caught because of it. “Bring me the sound of your guns and blame me for all of your wrongs. It seems hate is all I have left, it’s all I have left, it’s the only thing that’s left of me…” Not only has the beast destroyed your life but The Raven needs someone to pin all his misdeeds on. This song is incredibly emotional to me because it shows a vulnerability that even the strongest of us has.
“Maniacal Me” is where the beast comes back in to play. He struggles to get out as your fear gets stronger and stronger, he uses it to fuel his strength and break free. He wants nothing more than to make everyone suffer. Can you control it? Can you gain control before he lets himself loose? Only time will tell…
“Satellites (Act III)” is another interlude track but it’s the most emotional on the album. I find myself tearing up every time I hear this masterpiece…it’s beautifully orchestrated and the lyrics will chill you to the bone. This track, in essence, focuses on the doubt within us during The Resistance. Will what I’m doing make a difference? “Am I just another angry voice?”. How will I be remembered if I go down in the midst of all of this? But then I remember… “and when I’m worried, can I look up the satellites and hear them call your name? Then I know I’m not the only star in the world that’s trying to burn!”
The final 4 tracks are my favorites on the album (beside “MNSTR”) and make up the story of a battle that will leave you on the edge of your seat. “Rise of the Runaways” is self-explanatory. The Runaways (who are part of The Resistance) have the upper hand on The Raven and his Scarecrows! How long will this last? Well, if you go further into the album, you’ll get to “Bloodline”. The infamous Cog & Crown symbol finally makes it’s existence known as Escamilla confidently screams “BECOME THE COG & CROWN”. This is the symbol of The Resistance, the ultimate symbol of freedom from an unotherwise cruel and tyrannical world. “The Phoenix Reborn” is the beginning of the final battle and (symbolically), re-introduces our main character Johnny Ringo before his big finale. Before we jump into the final track, “Johnny’s Rebellion”, let’s get into his history a little bit. “Johnny Ringo” was introduced on Limitless and is an integral part of CTE’s history. Johnny makes a deal with the devil in “Johnny Ringo” which goes horribly wrong. In “Johnny’s Revenge”, he realizes that he’s trapped and seeks his revenge on the devil. Does he get the chance to exact his revenge? Well… let’s dive into “Johnny’s Rebellion”.
As we sink into the final chapter of the infamous “Johnny Ringo”… we’re met with a hopeful sound. That sound quickly fades to despair when he realizes that he was just dreaming and was, in fact, not returning above ground after all. “Johnny’s Rebellion” speaks of the moment that he finally raises his army of undead and destroys the one who betrayed him. Unfortunately, the victory inflates Johnny’s ego and his army turns on him… finally getting their chance to escape from the fiery prison they’ve been encased in for so long. Personally, Johnny was one of my favorite characters and I was sad to see him go. I was, however, happy with the way they ended the story… he started off pretty insane, got even more deranged and then finally evolved into a full-on maniac at the end of it all. “The king of the dead and the damned” was an awesome way to kill this character off.
From the first listen to now (I’ve lost count how many times I’ve spun this record)… this album seems to have something new to offer each time. Crown the Empire has created the perfect rock/metalcore record and I believe they’ve made that clear with their #1 ranking on SEVERAL of Billboard’s charts and an overall ranking of #7 on the US Billboard 200. Numbers aren’t everything but it’s clear that the talent within this band is ever-growing. Will there be another chapter in Aeon City or will the New Fallout cease to exist? Only time will tell but one thing’s for sure… you don’t want to miss out on The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways, out on Rise Records now! Check out the videos for “Machines” and “Bloodline” below and let them know what you think!
“Machines” (Official Music Video)