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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.