There is a new “hype” around old-school heavy metal going on. Every label wants a new rooster inspired by the glorious early heavy and/or evil bands. What’s even more impressive is that the movement started on very specialized forums, the whole thing grew, cool reviews started to bloom all over the web. And now, you got very promising bands, playing Mercyful Fate-like stuff like In Solitude and Portrait signed on Metal Blade! A few months ago, people would laugh at Mercyful Fate fans… That’s probably one of the very first cases where the whole thing completely started on specialized Internet forums.
But let’s give credit to those who’ve always been there, like Shadow Kingdom Records. The label has not only reissued some fantastic records (Manilla Road’s Live After Midnight), it also promoted promising new bands like Argus (now on Cruz Del Sur) and Iron Man (who released their fourth record, I Have Returned, probably one of the best heavy/doom CDs released in a few years).
And one of the most awesome bands on Shadow Kingdom is without a doubt Sinister Realm, formed by former Pale Divine John Shamus Gaffney and Darin McCloskey (the latter had to leave the band after the very good first record).
Their first record was already a great heavy metal journey with some doomy edges. But the new one, The Crystal Eye is a pure diamond.
Everything on this record makes it sound like a classic. It has the perfect length: 45 minutes. It contains 8 songs, each one of them being memorable with something specific that makes it stand out. You have the strong and powerful opener, a slow and very heavy song, a fast one, the epic killer title track, the melodic song, the power-ballad, the instrumental and the final epic that shows some interesting progressive elements. Absolutely nothing’s missing here!
All of the musicians are on the top of their game, and vocalist Alex Kristof is realy stands out. The man’s got a powerful voice but he also knows how to sing. What I mean is that he’s not like at 110% all over the album screaming his balls out and irritating your ears!
You also have to note the fantastic solos by new guitarist John Risko and of course the superb bass-lines from John Gaffney. His old-school style reminds me of the way Steve Harris stands out in Iron Maiden. Now he’s also the main composer here and he’s not very far away from perfection with tracks like “Signal The Earth” or “Swords Held High”. These songs are truly amazing, as they sound classic but very unique at the same time.
All in all, if you are into heavy metal, this is your album of the year. Therefore, even if the it’s cover is a little bit cheesy and although it’s not edited in one of those huge digipacks with a bonus DVD (where you can look at the band fool around in the studio for an hour and a half) The Crystal Eye deserves your complete attention. Definitely one of my favorites this year!
Make sure you check’em out right here.