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Originally starting out as a side project, L.A. heavy metal band Crescent Shield became a fully fledged band when co-founder/vocalist Michael Grant and his main band Onward disbanded. The case was the same for other co-founder, guitarist Daniel DeLucie and his main band Destiny’s End. Forming in 2000, Crescent Shield work out of sunny Los Angeles, but are with Italian record label, Cruz Del Sur Music. This is understandable due to the group’s music sounding very much like European heavy metal. With just the one full-length album under their belt, ‘The Last of My Kind’ released in 2006, the band is still quite young and yet to make their mark on the metal world.
Now with their latest effort, album #2 entitled ‘The Star of Never Seen’, Crescent Shield are hoping to become one of the headlining acts for Cruz Del Sur Music, and become a little more well known in Europe and in their hometown in the process.
Playing traditional heavy metal with elements of progressive metal, ‘The Stars of Never Seen’ contains 9 tracks, all pieced together nicely and wrapped up in a surprisingly solid production. All 9 songs are slowish to mid-paced in tempo and I would compare the pace of the tracks to be similar (but not exact) with the pace of the majority of tracks from the recent Iced Earth trilogy of “Something Wicked”.
Vocalist Michael Grant is a decent singer, but really needs a bit of work on his pitch and also the lack of emotion in his voice. Sounding similar in style to Brainstorm’s vocalist Andy B. Franck, but not nearly as polished, Grant hardly changes his style throughout the CD; which at times during some tracks can sound monotonous and tiresome. As far as the songwriting goes, here is where the bulk of the issues arise, despite all the tracks been written somewhat creatively. The trap Crescent Shield have fallen into, is to write that same creative song over and over again with hardly any differences at all between each track. Each member of the band are talented musicians which shows up on the album, but the problem I feel is that the majority of the tracks on ‘The Stars of Never Seen’ feel generic but also lack aggression, emotion and conviction. This would also explain the reason why there are hardly any guitar solos in the songs.
I found ‘The Stars of Never Seen’ to be disappointing, based on the reasons in the above paragraph. I thought that the album basically went “by the numbers” in terms of construction and it could have really been a lot better than how it turned out. Finding a standout track on the CD was fairly difficult, but there was a couple of tracks which showed a heap of promise and possibly something the band could use and work with for the next album.
The two tracks “Temple of the Empty” and the final track “Lifespan” are both quite good, but only because they swayed away from the typical formula which tainted the rest of the tracks. “Temple of the Empty” has a great guitar riff and plenty of gusto, while “Lifespan” gets the sticker with the smiley face because of Michael Grant’s impressive change in vocal delivery. Finally we hear some aggression in a track, unfortunately it just so happens to be on the final track.
In all, the album is a whole is disappointing, but it does show plenty of promise. Despite the songwriting being a great weakness and much improvement is needed, each member still tries very hard. Maybe giving the songwriting duties to someone else, or giving it a massive makeover for the next album, Crescent Shield could return to form with the third release.
Originally written for www.themetalforge.com
Crescent Shield is a fairly interesting phenomenon. Born as the side project between Dan DeLucie of Destiny's End and Michael Grant of Onward, the two quickly proved to be well-suited for each other's style, with Crescent Shield's first full-length, while inconsistent, was definitely better than anything either Destiny's End or Onward had released. 2009 saw the release of the second full-length, The Stars of Never Seen, which is both more ambitious and more consistent than the debut. This album is a true testament to the skill and ingenuity of both DeLucie and Grant, and the unequivocal chemistry between their two styles.
Michael Grant has always had an extremely distinctive voice; he sounds a bit like a deeper, more restrained, more serious version of Ozzy Osbourne, mixed with a touch of Helstar's James Rivera. Thankfully, however, Grant proves to be quite different from Rivera overall, as Destiny's End just wasn't particularly inspired, and Rivera, if anything, detracted from DeLucie's style despite his indisputable skill and charisma. DeLucie's style, though, is a bit more difficult to summarize. He employs galloping dual leads, but they sound nothing like NWOBHM; they're darker and more complex, and they change relatively often, making for mildly progressive song structures. Musically, the band sounds like late 80's Helstar mixed with Awaken-era Fates Warning, with a handful of modern influences present as well. Occasionally, there are other influences present; "The Bellman" and, to a lesser extent, "Lifespan" (as well as "The Path Once Chosen" from the debut) have some 70s pop/rock influence a la Boston, which is both strange and disgusting, as it completely destroys the dark speed/USPM sound DeLucie creates the rest of the time. If you're into that particular style, you may enjoy the aforementioned songs; otherwise, you'll want to avoid them.
The combination of Grant's and DeLucie's respective styles is a different beast altogether. Soaring and epic, dark and dissonant, aggressive yet atmospheric, it definitely creates a unique juxtaposition for the listener. DeLucie's style clearly has leanings more toward blue collar USPM, with a handful of speed thrown in, while Grant's operatic tone and heavy use of multi-tracking should sound more at home in one of the many Queensryche or Fates Warning clones (otherwise known as white collar USPM). However, despite their incompatibility on paper, the combination just fucking works.
The production here is crunchy and atmospheric, with the guitars and vocals sharing the spotlight; and luckily, they're both quite good most of the time. The bass isn't too audible, but the riffs are enough to melt your face off, so that's hardly much of a complaint, and the drums are strong without being tinny or annoying, hearkening back to the '80's (if the style wasn't already enough to do so). Other than the aforementioned "The Bellman" and "Lifespan" (which is decent rather than terrible, as it's more or less a cross between "The Bellman" and the style present on the rest of the album), the album is pretty damn consistent, with no songs falling short of great. Gone is the more straightforward, brighter, and more traditional atmosphere of the debut; Stars, true to its name, throws the listener deep into a dark, mystical abyss full of wonder and mystique. The album has an almost middle eastern feel to it at times, or perhaps it's just that I'm often reminded of the melody from the Spirit Temple in The Legend of Zelda: the Ocarina of Time (as a huge fan of that melody, this is definitely the highest of compliments).
There are some subtle differences in songs, as should be the case with a good album. Some songs ("Tides of Fire", "10,000 Midnights Ago", "The Grand Horizon", "My Anger") are more aggressive and a bit more straightforward, while others ("Under Cover of Shadows", "Temple of the Empty", "The Endurance") are longer, more progressive, and more atmospheric, with some excellent acoustic passages scattered throughout. Grant's multi-tracking is of particular note, as there are often two or even three separate melodies (and sometimes lyrical passages) running simultaneously. If you've yet to hear Crescent Shield, or have already heard the debut, and are a fan of classic USPM of any variety, definitely check this out, it's one of the very best PM albums of the 21st century.
Being that Cruz Del Sur Records is the harbinger of epic metal, it would only make sense Crescent Shield registered for their glorious roster alongside the other elites of such valorous might. Needless to say, "The Stars of Never Seen" manufactures an immobilizing shift of alchemistic power metal, combining the driving fury of old-school speed metal with today's catchiness and song structures often detected in power metal bands all over the nations. Nothing makes Crescent Shield unoriginal at all though, because the group's abstract nature pulls an interesting cover over their dynamic material, giving themselves and their second record a blessed shadowing that magnetizes the mystic and constitutes a wonderful listening experience in every sense.
I suppose the main point hovering over "The Stars of Never Seen" is the staggering direction Crescent Shield takes, much unlike several power metal groups attempting a similar feat. Their style is boldly atmospheric and heavily circulated on a full-fledged instrumental balance featuring fast yet sophisticated riffs, a complex and independent bass, and an impressive percussion scenario, with comfortable swarming to other influences (progressive rock/metal or NWOBHM , for instance) being played when the time is right, overall making a crisp identity one could not resist that emits no tracks of poor quality.
Take "The Bellman" for instance: a goofy jig giving nods to some mild NWOBHM influences and mid-paced structures that really don't fit with the mysterious feel most of the record radiates, but Crescent Shield is obviously so comfortable in their own skin that dropping the cryptic overtone clearly does nothing to damage the great reputation already bestowed upon "The Stars of Never Seen," as it is one hell of a song. On top of this, the album demonstrates a massive exploitation of rapid riffing in the vein of classic power metal factions such as Omen or Jag Panzer, but applied within a neat web that Crescent Shield molds into their own unique brand of casual dominance.
Now the only negative thing I tend to detect from the masses whenever Crescent Shield is discussed revolves around Michael Grant's voice, which is highly unlike the status quo of throats and even makes a weird duck such as Warrell Dane look like a Rob Halford clone. His pitch is quite low, maybe uncomfortably at times, but I really don't see his effort hindering the overall scheme throughout this record; in fact, I believe he sounds great in this particular group.
Overall, negative opinions do no harm to this record; they simply are deflected and then respectably ignored. You could say "The Stars of Never Seen" demonstrates the importance of originality balancing against a stellar atmosphere that can only be truly understood once it is given life, yet I'm inclined to argue that Crescent Shield's mystical offering yields so much more than the pitiful alms of words. Being that the album is an epic voyage to places unknown, I suggest you get a good seat on the magic carpet and enjoy the trip. Just keep your hands and feet in at all times, ok?
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
So, after their strong debut, I was hoping Crescent Shield would continue to create great melodic US heavy/power metal, and that is exactly what they did with their sophomore album, The Stars of Never Seen.
Crescent Shield's debut had a solid offering of USPM, and they continue the formula of their debut album on their second release. The Stars of Never Seen has a bit more toying with progressive song structures than The Last of My Kind, and the riffs are just as good, if not better. Michael Grant's vocal performance is also improved, with the vocals being lower register for most of the album, which is certainly where Grant sounds more powerful and comfortable, without the faltering that occasionally marred his work on their debut. However, while the band has certainly improved on the tracks in which they perform their best, The Stars of Never Seen has a consistency problem; several of the songs just aren't written very well.
Overall, the music is well written and well played, with the great tracks more than making up for the underwhelming ones. Dan Delucie's guitar work is technical and melodic, and even better than it was on the debut. Michael Grant's vocals are initially a bit odd, as he sounds quite a bit different from most vocalists, but they rapidly grow on you after a few listens. The rhythm section is, as it was on their first album, quite good. The bass is nice and audible in the mix.
The first three tracks kick the album off with quite a bang, with Under Cover of Shadows and The Grand Horizon both sporting very Destiny's End-esque riffing from DeLucie and great vocal performances, with the latter being the faster and better of the two. Tides of Fire changes the pace of the album, with a mellow and echoey acoustic intro. Michael Grant's voice sounds a bit wavering in the intro (which may be intentional), but he soon snaps into his usual style as the song suddenly picks up about halfway through. The rest of the song is a wonderfully emotional mid-paced track, and the closest thing to a ballad you will find on this album. Temple of the Empty is possibly the best of the album, with the most versatile vocal lines and very catchy guitar melodies.
Unfortunately, the album is also scattered with tracks that simply aren't that good. 10,000 Midnights Ago does not match up to the quality of the past three tracks, with a forgettable chorus and a lack of good hooks, and a gratingly repetitive verse riff. The Bellman is reminiscent of The Path Once Chosen from their debut, in that it is simply too happy to fit in with the rest of the songs, with a fairly cheesy-sounding verse riff.
Between the amazingly great tracks and the forgettable ones are a few rather confused sounding songs that probably could have been great if the band had refined them a bit more. The Endurance starts off very good, but gets dull after the halfway mark with a bit too much repetition in the riffs and less interesting vocal melodies. Lifespan jumps frantically between happy and menacing, and probably would have been better if it had stuck with one or the other (I would like the latter better, but either would work).
If you're a fan of USPM, or if you enjoyed Crescent Shield's previous album, pick this up. Not all the tracks are as good as they could be, but the ones that are are prime examples of top-notch melodic power metal. I'm eagerly awaiting another album from the band; if they can solve some of their consistency problems, it will be a great one.
When I listen to this album, I have one thought in mind: how the hell is this band still almost completely unknown? In fact, I have never heard of them until I accidentally stepped across this record. With heavy/power being one of my favorite genres of metal I decided to give it a spin and now I can tell you: buy it. Now.
Crescent Shield are US power metal band, but their sound is not exactly Iced Earth or Pharaoh copy, it rather combines European and American ways of playing power metal, with addition of some progressive elements here and there. The lengths of songs vary between 3 and 9 minutes and while some of them are fast and rather straightforward (“My Anger”), some are more complicated, utilizing acoustic guitars, rhythmic twists and turns and are generally more “prog” (“The Endurance”). The opening track “Under Cover of Shadows” starts with mellow acoustic intro, which quickly transforms into full-on heavy metal riff-driven song full of subtle guitar licks as well as headbangable rhythms and catchy vocal hooks. The chorus is monstrous and has melody that will get stuck in your head for days.
Speaking of melody and vocal hooks, one has to note the band’s biggest advantage – vocalist. Michael Grant has to be one of the most original vocalists in today’s heavy metal not using those cheesy high-pitched screams that are so common in the genre (German bands, anyone?). His voice is much lower and darker, creating the all the album’s atmosphere and at the same time not being another Matt Barlow rip-off. He is definitely standout member of the band and I couldn’t possibly imagine how this record would sound with different vocals.
Instrumentation may be a bit in the shade here, but it’s top notch nonetheless. Guitarists don’t limit themselves to just play riff after riff and put some solos here and there, but they do it with undeniable passion, which is clearly audible for all 49 minutes. Bass, which is not common situation, can be heard easily. It doesn’t only follow the guitars or drums, but has something to offer by itself, playing some quite complex lines. The good thing is, it is not meandering, but always inferior to song structure, which only adds to the overall greatness. Drums may be typical for heavy metal, but why should we expect more when it’s not drums this music is about? On the other hand, they didn’t let me down, and I always pay close attention to drumming, so I guess they just do what they’re supposed to do.
One of the best thing about this CD is great variation, songwriting is just top notch – you surely won’t be bored by this one. And this fact gets even more amusing when we realize that there is no proper ballad here, only pure heavy metal. The songs never drag, they usually get straight to the point. Still, the band knows when it’s best to slow down, to put tiny spacey interlude (and still no useless keyboards here!; not that I have anything against keyboards), so it’s just no way you will find it one-dimensional. Talking about spacey – the lyrics are mostly a science fiction kind, but not only. All in all, they’re pretty varied, but no matter what topic it is – it’s always presented well. No typical cheesy power metal whining here, it’s much more mature and clever.
The only weaker moment I consider “The Bellman”. This song, with it’s strange NWOBHM feel, just doesn’t seem to fit in this album. However, it’s the shortest song here and it passes in a blink of an eye, so it didn’t manage to spoil the greatness of the record. Still, put elsewhere, it probably would be a great one.
Having such a great vocalist an overall instrumental prowess, it remains one of the biggest mysteries of mankind why is this band not praised all over the world. If you, my reader, are true lover of all things metal, you will instantly get your ass up and do everything to grab this record and support the band. This one seconds only to new Mystic Prophecy in the chase for “Best Power Metal Album of 2009”, so you will only do yourself a favor by getting this.