Review: “Quarter Life Daydream” by Crooked Royals

“A lot of us are in our twenties, In a quarter life crisis, you’re stuck in that beginner job straight out of university. It’s about the trials and tribulations we’ve gone through writing during the Pandemic and doing those jobs. It’s about balancing the stress we all go through in our twenties. These are referred to as the wasted years where you experiment and see what’s good and what sticks. It’s the main theme of the album.” ~ Christian Carstensen 

Sometimes somethings feel like they’re just meant to be and for Auckland New Zealand natives Crooked Royals, on paper at least, their signing with 3DOT Recordings (Destrage, Astronoid, Infinity Shred), the label owned by pioneering DJentlemen Periphery seems absolutely perfect given their desire to create Progressive Metalcore with alternative melodies and moments of nocturnal trap R&B. Back in 2017 their initial demos caught the attention of Veil of Maya frontman Lukas Magyar, who worked with them on their 2018 debut EP, “Interwine”, something which lead to them supporting genre peers Northlane, Polaris and Monuments before their sophomore EP “Rumination” appeared in 2019. Three years on their full debut album has been recorded and mixed by Zorran Mendonsa (Coridian) and mastered by George Lever (Sleep Token, Loathe, Thornhill), so where does it find them?

Guitarist Jake Andrews must have been cloned because the sheer amount of work he puts in during heaving hitting DJent fuelled opening cut “Glass Hands” alone is stunning. He blitzes through technical leads while bringing bounce heavy moments for the pit. Clean vocalist Christian Carstensen and unclean vocalist Lee Mackley go head to head, finding the perfect balance between their contrasting styles without losing any of the energy during the monstrous opening which puts them on par with their genre peers before the album as really begun. “Ill Manor” continues along similar lines with obvious comparisons to Monuments, Polaris and Periphery in both style and tone as they deliver a cut rich in dark melody that will get audiences off their feet. Cleverly it makes the best of a collection of pummelling riffs intertwined with progressive complexities while having soaring clean vocal moments laced with a distinctly raw melody. The R&B element comes to the fore in a way which makes perfect sense in “Waypoint” with Carstensen doing similar work to Tyler Carter in the earlier days of Issues, something that works incredibly well while loosing none of that heavier edge and taking what they did a few steps further down the yellow brick road. A heavy punch back comes with mid album cut “Counterfeit” which goes for the jugular by introducing dark spoken words that build into rap screams with menacing overtones alongside guitars that have more drive and enough bounce to crack concrete floors. The surprise is how well the collection of songs fit together with the band clearly taking their time to get them in the right order to give us an album that flows really well.

The second half of the album starts with “Owed To You“, another one with a rich melody and R&B leanings which bring a nice warmth that is cut by the prevailing wind of the heavier sections, the transitions between the pair of contrasting styles so slick that they remind of the much missed Napoleon. On “Copacetic” the combination of Mackley’s unclean vocals and the heavier guitar parts is reminiscent of “Cold Like War” era We Came As Romans but sonically is much more technical, the melodic choruses designed for the bigger stages with huge sing-a-long potential. The crunch of those heavier sections giving the cut a wholesome feel that is often ill timed but here Crooked Royals find the perfect balance. One thing you might not expect to find on an album of Progressive Metalcore is blast beats but the aggression of “Paper Warrior” brings them into play during a fast start that slows as the cut plays out, gradually introducing melody before it soars. How they manage to do that in under four minutes when other bands would take eight over it is beyond comprehension but the result is stunning. Aided and abetted by a little programming “Between You And I” finds Crooked Royals at the other end of the spectrum, creating a rich soundscape of vibrant melody alongside an uplifting lyrical narrative. A love song that is without cheese an carries a weight and gravity, it ends the album on an unexpected note of beauty while still be in keeping with the bands overall style. This is stunning album that will take the Crooked Royals as far as they want to go [9/10]

Track Listing

1. Glass Hands
2. Ill Manor
3. Waypoint
4. Counterfeit
5. Owed To You
6. Copacetic
7. Paper Warrior
8. Between You And I

Quarter Life Daydream” by Crooked Royals is out 21st October 2022 via 3DOT Recordings

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