This album, entitled "The Crown of Ice," is a collaboration between two martial industrial-based groups; the German Schattenspiel, and the French Barbarossa Umtrunk. BU was featured on Schattenspiel's latest album from last year, and it seems their cooperation was fruitful since they later came together to create this over an hour long album. I'm familiar with Schattenspiel, but this is my first real encounter with BU's works.
The songs branch from Schattenspiel's somewhat traditional neoclassical industrial that's driven by powerful cellos and bombastic poundings, to really bare moments relying on some piano notes and atmospheric field recordings and samples, all the way to more experimental moments that rely on colder and cruder industrial sounds... the list goes on. The differences between the tracks, from the pompous "Sturmwarnung" to the minimal and dramatic "Tell-Tale Heart," and from the funeral march-like "Himmelfahrtskommando" to the rather cheery electro-based tune "Les Noces Polaires" is exactly the thing that keeps the album interesting despite its lenght. The album is massive, but doesn't feel too overwhelming.
One more noteworthy thing about the album is the vocals of Baron Von S of Barbarossa Umtrunk. The vocals are sung in French, meaning I don't understand a word of them, but he has such a strong and emotional voice that it gives a great amount of additional power and appeal to the songs, and makes them a lot more difficult to disregard. The vocals fit the militant themes and soundscapes like a glove, and don't begin to sound dull as they're not overused.
"La Couronne de Glace" is a brave, even valiant album. The artists have imbued effective (both martial and other) samples and industrial effect to boost the songs' moods, knew to leave some breathing pauses here and there in addition to some fully calm but still meaningful tunes, and there's some organic touch to make the album feel more alive. Adding samples of speech, child choir, some flute or a music box might not sound like much when written, but it all has found its place on the album. The compositions have their loud and quiet moments, but the epic and even threatening atmosphere remains.
The only real problem with the album is that it does carry some weaker moments that lower its value, such as the tune "Fallen Moons" with it's barer and less detailed structure. Based on the album's overall feel and compositional quality, the artists could've kept the bar higher throughout the album and spent some more time working on it, as now I feel as if they quit tweaking and polishing it too soon. Aside of some odd imbalance quality-wise and a need for a more professional overall soundscape (which sounds too weak every now and then, but knowing how DIY the artists are this should carry no surprise), the album is recommended for those who enjoy neoclassical, martial, and slightly more experimental soundscapes. It's still a bummer to think how good this album could've been with more adjustment.