Take our definition of a difficult life and the worst days of our lives and add ten years. The former angsty teenagers of 2008 have grown into the working class of today. The venues that were once filled with Sharpie-drawn Xs are now scattered with tattoo-clad adults, all with a beer in hand and cigarettes in their pockets. This is the generation that grew from the sounds of Taking Back Sunday, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out-era Panic! At the Disco, and Fall Out Boy. The young generation no one was able to understand has now grown into a functional society of adults who still would rather spend a Wednesday night in a steamy venue than on the couch getting ready to turn in for the night.
Crown the Empire aligns with this generation. Frontman Andy Leo, who just turned 25 this past May, is at the all-to-confusing age bracket where you’re technically an adult but you don’t have anything figured out yet. Perhaps this is why he, Brent Taddie (drums), Brandon Hoover (guitar), and Hayden Tree (bass) are the best example of what happened to “Generation Y.”
With all the terms like “Millenials” and “Gen Z” being thrown around, it’s difficult to tell the difference between all these generational gaps. Generation Y belongs to those born between 1981 and 1996. These are the kids who grew up when technology started to flourish, yet we can easily recognize a flip phone and admit that at some point we definitely wanted a Sidekick because we’d seen one in every music video on MTV (back when MTV was starting to slowly veer away from music).
The members of Crown the Empire were around the tender age of 16 when they embarked on their musical endeavors. Over time, their sound has developed and effortlessly grown with their audience, perfectly echoing the struggles of their audience.
On August 14, along with Life Right Now, Hawk, Gideon, Veil of Maya, and Attila, Crown the Empire drove into gloomy Norfolk, Virginia, just as the storm clouds rolled over. They released their newest album Sudden Sky three weeks prior; this is the first album they had released in the past three years following their hiatus and departure of vocalist Dave Escamilla. This band is no stranger to sudden change as they have seen several members come and go, yet the original members still stand their ground as the stable foundation of Crown the Empire. With the release of tracks like 20/20, what i am, and MZRY, audiences can find a reflection of Generation Y’s struggles with depression, anxiety, breakups, a loss of self, and the endless struggle to find your way back.
The first time I’d seen this band live, I was at this same venue but for a different band entirely. Crown the Empire was the headlining band, but I had no interest. By chance, I reentered the venue in time for their last song Machines. The song had such a distinct sound and feeling that I was instantly hooked. While I had listened to metal in the past, it was not my forte. These guys are not metal though – this is the definition of metalcore, a fusion of metal and hardcore punk aka the two genres most people my age had listened to at least once before. While it appealed to metalheads, it also drew the attention of punk fans as it maintained similar elements of those random songs we loved to blast in our cars during roadtrips.
When my family first heard this music from me, the first question asked was, “Are you listening to this because you’re angry with your life?” It was an odd but expected question. Without listening to the actual lyrics, this music did seem angry, tense, and filled with rage. However, a friend I bumped into during Rage Fest put it in simpler terms – it’s oddly calming. She, a frequent rave attendee, also added that the energy in the venue was similar to the music festivals she loved where the audience vibed together. There was no hostility as we were all here for the same reason, and we just wanted to enjoy the music. While on a bus back from New York City to Virginia, I listened to Machines on repeat and fell asleep with the volume on blast. This music didn’t make me angry, in fact, it provided an unusual form of solace. The lyrics made sense – they were relatable.
Crown the Empires feat lies within their ability to translate the anger kept in by Generation Y into music. This generation is known for the anxiety and the dark times we refuse to talk about. We’re characterized by breakups and the constant pestering over the question “Who are you?” and “Who will you be?” In short, this generation is the definition of a journey.
In the band’s youth, songs like The Fallout and Memories of a Broken Heart are shaped around an apocalyptic theme inspired by the breakup of one of the members. Andy Leo stated in a previous interview that the breakup might’ve seemed like the end of the world, and this idea fueled the album’s birth.
Now in their mid-twenties, Sudden Sky is, in a way, themeless. Just as Paramore’s 2009 album Brand New Eyes was about friendship and the loss of it, Crown the Empire’s latest creation speaks only of struggle to find yourself in the emergence of adulthood because, let’s be honest, it isn’t easy. We self-medicate for short bursts of what we assume to be normalcy, and we refuse to believe that life might keep us in the dark longer than we’d like to be.
The music for MZRY was released in June. At first glance, the old-style graphics seem a little odd given the kind of media we’re used to, but it gives a nostalgic feel to the music. As the song and video depict, while self-medicating can bring us temporary happiness, it’s still poisonous to our self-worth knowing that we truly believe peace is only attainable in the form of a pill. Whether you can relate to the lyrics figuratively or literally, it speaks to those who might struggle with any mental issues.
Between the shots of whiskey given to Andy, the sweat dripping from Brandon’s hair, and the beaming lights, the band’s presence at Norfolk’s famous venue the NorVa was nothing short of noteworthy. Previous to their set, Attila managed to incite several mosh pits with humorous sound bites and fan engagement. The crowd was riled up and ready to run into their fellow concert-goers with no regrets.
However, the crowd’s energy was distinctly different with Crown the Empire.
I’ve been to over fifty shows at this venue. Until I made the decision to safely stay in the back and just enjoy the music, there was never a time when someone didn’t have their elbow in my side or their chest on my back in the hopes of pushing their way to the front. During this set, the audience kept their distance from each other, and they simply watched. They paid attention. They engaged, and they let the music fill the venue.
With the absence of bassist, Hayden Tree, the band enlisted the assistance of their tour-mates, Lukas (Veil of Maya), Thaddeus, Ricky (Hawk), Kalan (Attila), and Dan (Gideon), they provided a noteworthy comeback to Norfolk with a blinding performance.
Support Crown the Empire’s newest album Sudden Sky!