CRYSTAL EYES – CHAINED (METAL HEAVEN 2008)

REVIEW BY VILLE KRANNILA / FEB 2009

Crystal Eyes are a power metal band hailing from Sweden. They formed in 1992 and were hugely inspired by Judas Priest. Guitarist Mikael Dahl is the only remaining original member in their line-up. The band is now onto their sixth effort and have slowly gained more reputation in both their homeland and all over Europe. The genre they have been performing isn’t certainly the most easy one, thousands of power metal bands have released good and not-so-good albums throughout this decade. Most of them naturally fall under too similar category, either lacking that extra punch or that one magic ingredient to separate them from the rest of the pack.

So it is only natural to feel a certain trepidation when approaching a new CD such as this. How would the experience be and how would the band’s sound reach these weary ears? What came across straight away during the first listen was the celebrating nature of the album – celebrating in a sense it features lots of references to classic metal bands and their songs.

Some odd observations on few individual songs follow here.

“Ride The Rainbow” is a classic power metal opener, not too different from the pioneers of that style, Helloween and Gamma Ray. The production is sharp and riffs have that metallic sound which is always a plus, more closer to Accept and Judas Priest than most new age power metal groups. This is always a good sign.

The second number “The Fire of Hades” is probably my favourite track off the album, it opens a bit like Black Sabbath’s “Headless Cross” but then moves to another territory and features excellent chorus in true epic fashion. Vocalist Nico Adamsen sings with great emotion here as well.

Third up is “The Devil Inside.” This brings strongly to mind commercial Accept around the time of their “Metal Heart” release. A good song.

“Waves Of War” is pretty much Running Wild reincarnated, however since that particular band have gone off the radar completely it’s nice to hear material like this.

“Dying In The Rain” is again resembling Black Sabbath but this time it’s circa 1980 and “Heaven And Hell” (in fact when Adamsen sings “look out” it makes the case quite clear) throughout until the very end where most obviously you switch dying with crying and remember a certain snake.

From the guitar harmonies that dominate “Lonely Ball Of Hate” I get strong vibes of Iron Maiden’s classic “The Trooper”. Otherwise the track is quite a different animal.

The closing tune “Guardian” is the standard acoustic number but fits very well for its spot at the end of the album. I liked the atmosphere on this song and overall it’s a great performance from everyone in the band.

For some these references might just be an excuse to accuse the band for copying someone else and not creating anything worthwhile on their own, thus being a reason enough to turn away. However, make no mistake this is no Krokus’ “Heart Attack.” It is just some odd lyrical themes, melodies and guitar harmonies that give nod to their influences. Sometimes that is just what is required, and this record certainly works on all levels. It has all the necessary elements required for a good heavy metal album.

Vocals by Nico Adamsen offer an interesting counterpoint for grinding guitars and melodies. He appears to sound right at home with both faster power metal songs and more epic, heavier moments – as well as ballads. The voice is basically nothing like those bands Crystal Eyes draws influence from but rather a combination of them.

Guitars come courtesy of long standing original member Mikael Dahl and Paul Pettersson, who deliver sharp riffs and melodies respectfully classic heavy metal in mind, yet retaining a modern edge. Bass player Claes Wikander and drummer Stefan Svantesson support the proceedings with enough bottom end to generate warmth and powerful feeling throughout different moods and phases the songs offer.

Just recently we got the news that “Chained” is nominated for Swedish Metal Awards 2009 in the category Heavy/Power Metal. Regardless whether they win the prize or not, Crystal Eyes have already proven they have what it takes to create more interesting metal music. The road isn’t easy but like I said sometimes this type of stuff is all that’s needed.

With “Chained” these Swedish warriors have certainly offered a refreshing set of classic heavy metal, rooted deep into the 1980’s it may be, but as long as it’s delivered with a such heart and conviction it shouldn’t matter. It’s down to good songs and mostly that’s what we have here as well. Personally I’m very much looking forward to what these guys have to offer also in the future.

3halfk

crystal_eyes_chained

1. Ride The Rainbow
2. The Fire Of Hades
3. The Devil Inside
4. Waves Of War
5. Dying In The Rain
6. Fighting
7. Shadow Rider
8. Lonely Ball Of Hate
9. Guardian

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About Ville Krannila