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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.