Cody Bowles, one half of Crown Lands, is moved to discuss “Fearless” thus: “this epic story spans hundreds of years following our titular hero: Fearless after the events of (2021 single) ‘The Oracle.’ He stands against the colonization of outer space and the decimation of his people to reclaim what was stolen by capitalistic greed and bloodshed.”
There’s more, but you get the gist.
Regular readers will know that I am a philistine when it comes to concept records, adopting a kind of “yeah sound, are the songs any good, though?” attitude, but “Fearless” presents me with a problem.
Crown Lands themselves, actually. Their name is a nod to capitalism and the greed that saw indigenous people lose their land, and I will never be shy of writing about my hatred of capitalism, and then there’s the fact that Crown Lands are a bloody interesting group. Bowles is a half-Mi’kmaq who identifies as Two Spirit and together with Kevin Comeau (guitar, bass, and keys) they make music that is more gargantuan than two people should ever be able to make.
Which brings us to “Fearless” itself. It kicks off with “Starlifter: Fearless PT II” an 18 and half minute journey that is as prog as it gets. So, shall we just cut to the chase and call them the new Rush? Well, yes if you want and Bowles isn’t exactly hiding his debt to Geddy Lee here, but that’s not quite right either.
And it’s not accurate because they follow it with a couple of shorter, sharper shocks. “Dreamer Of The Dawn” thunders along like Coheed And Cambria, and I find it hard to listen to this and not think of Coheed. While “The Shadow” has a more metal tinge. “Steal Away” sings Bowles in the hook and in doing so, he invokes some kind of Dio thing. It’s quite something how good his voice is – and the debut album comparisons with Wolfmother that I wrote back in 2020 stand scrutiny again, as “Right Way Back” underlines”.
This was recorded over a six month period. Working with producer David Bottrill (Rush, Muse, Tool, Mastodon) it doesn’t seem to have been a Def Leppard “Hysteria” type deal where they obsessed for days over a chord sequence, instead, they went into the studio in time off the road and it sounds as if they were bursting with energy. “Context: Fearless Part I” is typical in that it has so much texture, so much depth that honestly, I must have listened to the record 10 times and I’ve heard different things each time – and there comes a point where you just have to review the thing.
“Reflections” takes you into some other world. You are floating at the start, trance-like and when it bursts into life its pretty special. The gorgeous, acoustic “Penny” is a change of pace, something light and airy on a record that is anything but, and “Lady Of The Lake” resumes where most of the album leaves off with something effortlessly epic.
As the wonderful “Citadel” closes things, building from its piano intro to something else entirely, doing so with a poetry that I won’t claim to interpret, I am reminded of my conclusion to the review of the debut: “It seems that Crown Lands know where their influences lie, but that as they move forward, they might find their own voice and become truly special,” I’d said three years ago. “Fearless” is the sound of them doing just that, and their courage reaps rich rewards.