SummaryGood enough to convert the heavy metal outsider
|4.3 (3 votes):|
Way back in 1986 during the early stages of metal, Florida was not known yet as the world capital of death metal but there was a band called ‘Crimson Glory’ which name alone should tell the listener exactly what to expect musically. This album here is a slick blend of heavy metal with latent hard rock tendencies and a subtle element of progressive, with a strong focus on song-writing rather than demonstrative musicianship. It’s labeled as prog, but the tracks all sound like songs; not clusters of riffs; and the more technical work only acts as a supplement to the centralized plots.
First of all, the album from a purely sonic standpoint sounds glorious. The production is simply excellent for an album of that time as every instrument breathes and thrives, allowing the record to deliver its point with that much more impact and efficiency. Lots of the guitars venture into the highs, as well as the very high-pitched falsetto vocals (in fairness, the star of the show) and yet none of those ever sound piercing. There’s definitely lots of EQ boosting going on as the album sounds very polished and highly dynamic, yet still organic, but the subtle EQ moves display tremendous control in producing power rather than frequency overkill. The bass was given lots of post-processing attention and plenty of decibels as they stick out of the overall mix for better separation from the busy guitars/vocals central setting and help give the listener a clear notion of what the chord progressions are actually doing, a la Maiden with the way they utilized the bass guitar.
Most of the album is of course melodic, but the prog elements will kick in occasionally with chromaticisms in both riffs and on the leads and solos. Some songs will come across as being more rock n roll in tone (‘Mayday’, ‘Queen of the Mascarade’) with wild pentatonic solos accentuating the tendency, but the band is quick with chaining up a prog section or complex lick to keep the songs intricate and not let them drop to a generic state.
The songs do have cheesy names, as is traditional for this sort of music and its infatuation with grand themes and its usual grandiloquence, but the choruses sound absolutely epic, in particular on the opening track ‘Valhalla’ or on ‘Heart of Steel’ as two of the better examples. The vocals might be a tad too present overall, a bit on the overly sentimental side on a few occasions, but they’re flat out impressive most of the time and help establish that celestial ambiance that this record is notorious for. The album also contains mostly great finishes to the songs, which really gives it that extra class and emphatic quality. It’s certainly got a taste for theatrics. The last seconds on the opener ‘Valhalla’ with the soaring lead scream wrapping up the intensely climactic final chorus as all the instruments come to a synchronized stop and the ensuing lush reverb sustain are just glorious heavy metal. In this field, it rarely gets any better than this.
It should be noted the album was also highly innovative as the band’s inspiration would mostly be non-metal bands at that time and what they managed to put together here may sound familiar to the modern fan decades into the evolution of the genre, but it was certainly highly accomplished novel music then. A track like ‘Lost Reflection’ is basically Iced Earth’s ‘Dracula’, both guitars and vocals, 15 years before its release. To be clear, Iced Earth obviously ripped them off here but that’s besides the point of Crimson Glory’s powerful influence in the field.
The album is more atmospheric towards the last few songs with lots of slower and more airy tracks, comprising acoustic guitars and even choirs. That area of the record brings a quieter, darker reverb-laden edge to the whole. A slick move as the album would’ve undeniably felt too intense and quite possibly tedious all the way through had it ended the way it began.
As far as criticism goes, this is still for the most part crafted with the usual heavy metal gallops for verses. So the listener will have to put up with a lot of dum duh-duh-dum duh-duh-dum rhythm guitar parts, and if one considers that’s just a stylistic artifact of the genre so be it, but the full album (with extra Track 9 ‘Dream Dancer’ as the closer) is 46min in length and the band isn’t constantly pulling off wild riffing so a lot of this is 80’s heavy metal status quo. One of the champions of its craft though, surely, and quite an essential album.
Release date: October 20th, 1986
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