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During the 1980s, heavy metal music was very subject to be looked down upon on the part of the mainstream (aside from hair metal, of course) as inferior. They saw it as a particular form of music that was merely unsophisticated and mindless bombastic noise that centers around sex, drugs and rock 'n roll, along with violence and satanism, as well as very many other vulgar and evil lyrical matters. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that when they had stumbled onto this album, they were left absolutely speechless. This counteracts every single one of those stereotypical accusations. The only one that it doesn't is making sure to it that their music was bombastic, but hey, that's never a bad thing in any situation at all. In this situation, it's a very good thing and it adds to the charisma of the music. What is heavy metal (or rock music in general) without that anyway. You have to have some power in music such as this, regardless of the mood of it or technicality level of it. It isn't even up for debate.
This music is very intelligent and sophisticated, accompanied by a dark feel, some masterful guitar work and some truly outstanding vocals. Sometimes the music is a good bit more on the haunting side than it is in some other areas, however. its main feel is absolutely gloomy and mysterious. Also, I think that I can safely say that the album's cover paints the perfect portrait for what the ear of the ear of the listener receives when they pop this bad boy in. The lyricism is appropriate for this. Even when the music gets a bit different, the lyricism is very appropriate for it. On each and every track, it works. The vocals are different on a few of the tracks, yet they remain completely consistent. Not too many albums out there are able to accomplish this. So I respect the hell out of this album for doing what it was able to do in many different areas, leading it to being near perfection. I believe that I can safely say that a lot of people would definitely agree with my statement on the matter.
I have four main highlights for this release. One is the opening track, "Valhalla". This one delivers a just-under-mid-paced, gloomy feel and it is accompanied by a badass solo and some pleasantly haunting vocals. The chorus is pretty simple, but its pretty damn cool to listen to. I love its multi-layered vocals. Sends shivers down my spine. Another one of my highlights is the extremely catchy ear-worm, "Angels of War", with yet another great solo and catchy chorus. You can hear quite a lot of Iron Maiden-ish melodies on this track, as well as the strong emphasis on twin-guitar riffs, but it doesn't rip them off. Is it as good as Iron Maiden? Not quite? Is it an amazing piece of music nonetheless? Quite sure of a yes answer on that one. Another highlight is the haunting closing track, "Lost Reflection". This is a pretty nice acoustic piece that just builds around two chords and some lyrics that are just as dark, gloomy and creepy as they are depressing and pitiful. There is a moment in the song that lasts about thirty seconds where distorted electric guitars appear and it just gets loud and the vocals just get much harsher, just before it fades out the same way as it had started. This is actually quite effective. The concluding highlight is exactly one third of the three "outliers" of the album, which are the songs which are the three songs on the album that contain a decent-sized amount of difference from the rest of the album.
I'll get the highlight out of the way first, which is rather obviously appropriate. That song is the second-to-first track, "Dragon Lady", which is still very epic, but it seems more on the NWOBHM-ish side, particularly bands such as Dark Star, or maybe a more complex and technical version of Praying Mantis. I love the opening scream and the riff work. You hear some vocals from Midnight that are a bit more on the edgy side when compared to what else in on the album, as well. Every single thing blends in together absolutely perfectly on this song. Now, I'll mention the other two tracks that differ from the rest of the album. One is "Queen of the Masquerade", which is more "rock n' roll-ish" than the rest of the music on the album and it has some slightly more gritty vocals from Midnight, as well as a main guitar riff that is definitely reminiscent of hard rock from the 1970s, such as Rainbow and early AC/DC. The last one is "Mayday", which is the fastest and most abrasive track on the album. With lyrics about a space shuttle dysfunction, this song does not give you one single moment to relax after the intro. Not quite a highlight, but still great, just as the whole album in general.
There are two things that stand out to me the most on this album. One is the guitar work. There are some great musical moments in general on this album, but this is the thing that truly excels. The solos are catchy as hell, but they are even more technical. The riffs are bold and straightforward but you can tell that there was a shitload of thought that was put into them. They are melodic and usually pretty atmospheric. You don't really have a good amount of things to complain about when you hear them play. It's pretty much everything that you could want from guitar work on a progressive metal album. The other thing is the vocals. Midnight s an absolutely incredible singer. He has some rough, yet highly melodic and operatic vocals and he has a lot of power. His range just compliments this. When he wants to, he can give us some of the most haunting sounds to have ever slithered from the vocals chords of a human being in the history of rock music (or contemporary music in general). It is absolutely pleasing and fulfilling to anyone who is looking throughout the music scene for someone with some serious talent.
There is one complaint that I have about this album. There are rare instances where the music gets a little bit hollow. It feels like there could be something a lot better if you did not take something away from the music, but add something in. It can be compared decently to a symphony without any bass instruments. It could use an additional wall of sound with it. Fortunately, this was built upon on the next album in their discography, which was their sophomore release, "Transcendence" from 1988, which I consider to be their best album that they have ever made. This is only a minor complaint and I don't consider to be much of a count against it, but something that could use a little bit of improvement.
Along with the album that followed it, Crimson Glory’s debut is a true classic of its genre. With sophisticated, yet raw riff-work and truly charismatic vocals, this album stood alone to the people of its time and it still can be considered unique. This is not exactly the very first album that comes to mind when you think of melodic metal, however, I am one that does believe that it is one of the best and most unique, especially for the year and time of its release and it can continue to bring down those who use stereotypes as their main arguments as modern as present day times.
1986 was a pretty monumental year for the heavy metal scene; with monoliths like Fates Warning's Awaken the Guardian, Slayer's Reign in Blood, Metallica's Master of Puppets, Metal Church's The Dark and Manilla Road's The Deluge being released, newcomers Crimson Glory had some pretty stiff competition, yet they still managed to make a strong impact without sounding much like any of their competitors. Sure, they clearly drew influence from Queensryche's early material, but their style and composition are unequivocally their own. Frontman Midnight pretty much blew every other operatic singer in metal at the time out of the water in terms of range, charisma, and sheer emotion, Geoff Tate included. His fetish for theatrics was also something that wasn't being done much in metal at the time; "Lost Reflection" particularly stands out as a diamond in the rough, a style of ballad nobody else had the balls to attempt - probably because nobody else possessed the sheer emotional caliber of Midnight.
Their songwriting style, too, is pretty unique; simple, ethereal heavy/power metal with an ultra-melodic, theatrical bent that seemingly came out of thin air. Although they don't borrow specifically from any classical pieces as far as I'm aware, I can imagine a fan of classical music, theatre, or musicals would enjoy this more than they'd enjoy most other metal. The epic, laid-back style combined with Midnight's absurdly excellent delivery has so much charm to it it's hard to keep from being sucked in by its atmosphere. It may not be as ball-busting and testosterone-laden as something like Omen, but that's hardly the point; Omen is to Crimson Glory what wrestling is to Shakespeare; they have two completely different objectives. Crimson Glory play an intelligent, intellectual, sensitive style of metal that would have no place being compared to Omen and its ilk. The only problem I have with Crimson Glory is that the songwriting here isn't quite as consistent as it could be; Heart of Steel and especially Mayday feel lacking of the epic catchiness of the rest of the album. "Dream Dancer" too suffers a bit from being a bit overlong, and the album as a whole feels as though it might have one too many ballads (it has three), although once "Lost Reflection" comes on I can hardly fault the band for liking ballads. Its dark, psychotic tone is something one definitely has to be in the mood for, but when the mood is right, it's one of the best songs out there, ranking among greats like Psychotic Waltz's title track, and I hold that none, not even the supremely talented Buddy Lackey (AKA Devon Graves) can stand up Midnight's performance on that song. It's hauntingly perfect.
As far as the metal songs are concerned, there's a little variance in quality, but for the most part they completely kick ass. "Azrael" and "Valhalla" in particular stand out as excellent, with an ethereal otherworldliness that's rarely, if ever, been paralleled; Fates Warning have a couple of song that might be able to stand up to it, and Screamer gave it an admirable shot with Target Earth, and of course Manilla Road have achieved it on a select few of their songs, but for the most part it's something that's pretty damn untouchable. The other songs are in a similar vein, just slightly lower in quality, though still quite excellent. It's not often you combine an absolutely top-notch singer with killer riffs, but this is one of the few exceptions, and damn is it an enjoyable one. "Queen of the Masquerade" stands out a bit too in that it falls more along the lines of pure, laid back classic heavy metal than the rest of the album, and Midnight succeeds in sound like both a sleazy bastard and an intergalactic regal madman all at the same time.
Unfortunately, nothing the band released after this would ever really hold up to its quality; the follow-up album is highly revered, and it's definitely far from a sell-out, but neither is it top-tier stuff like this; and everything they've released since has been utter garbage. Crimson Glory completely and utterly broke the USPM seen, and then quickly faded from existence, much like most other quality White Collar USPM bands (Chozzen Phate, Enchanter, Screamer, Heir Apparent, etc.). However, their debut album will always be a jewel to be admired and listened to over and over again, something to set the standard for bands to come, and the greatest performance of one of metal's greatest singers, Midnight. Despite a few flaws, the album is very, very highly recommended for any fans of classic heavy metal, USPM, or progressive metal.
Crimson Glory was one of the unsung 80s metal heroes. These guys never really made it big – although they did seem to get more credit than some other bands back then – but their groovy, light-footed style, which was something like a spacier, more mellow Maiden, nevertheless captivates even to this day. This was their self-titled record and I’m glad it’s getting more and more recognition these days as the old-school classic it is.
These guys were just awesome when they were on full-power. Not every song here is excellent, but there are a few that hit like 5000 volts of pure electricity. Crimson Glory’s thing was tight, hooky riffs pulled together by unstoppably cool bass grooves and blazing drum-work that made each song instantly memorable. A lot of bands eschewed this kind of classic-rock-esque groove for more speed and intensity – not Crimson Glory. A big part of their sound was midpaced, atmospheric, ethereal rockers like “Dragon Lady,” the unstoppable ownage of “Queen of the Masquerade” and the complete ass-kicking bible of heavy fucking metal that is “Azrael” – what a beast of a song! That riff! That dominating chorus! That groove! Truly a band at their best.
The vocals of Midnight deserve their own paragraph, as here we had one of the greatest metal vocalists ever. He has this great, silky, high voice that soars over the music gently, like a feather, but then he bellows at the top of his lungs and delivers a really balls-out performance the next second. He has a ton of dynamic and range, perhaps best displayed on the quiet and creepy “Lost Reflection” that closes the album. And the leads, too! Crimson Glory always had this excellent tone for their leads that made them sound like they were soaring up past comets, asteroids and supernovas. A very spacey and atmospheric sound that made them stick out from the competition. Every song has a ton of awesome twin-ax leads, licks and solos that are just mouthwatering.
But Crimson Glory was always unique. Here, finally, was a band with presence and charisma. I only wonder what would have become of them if they had hit it big a la Maiden or Priest – would we have been treated to five more albums of this kind of music, as opposed to only one? We’ll never know. I have to say this self-titled album isn’t perfect, as the inconsistency between songs and the rather short length ends up making this one feel a bit jumbled. I was never a big fan of “Angels of War,” and “Mayday” sounds a little rushed, too. Maybe “Heart of Steel” goes on a little long. But the album as a whole is satisfying, and for cool old school metal this album does the job. An exceptional release, and the band’s debut? That’s talent right there. And they got even better after this.
As far as I'm concerned, there are only a handful of truly perfect albums in existence, most of which coming from the "golden era" of progressive and power metal from the mid-to-late 80's. This immaculate period of time gave to us flawless, pristine masterworks of metal such as Fates Warning's The Spectre Within and Awaken the Guardian, Savatage's (not perfect, but still awe-inspiring) Hall of the Mountain King, not to mention Queensryche's Rage For Order and Operation: Mindcrime (neither also being perfect, but still demonstrating catchiness and originality); yep, we got it all. However, the most often unnoticed duo of releases in the same arena as those other notables is the unworldly one-two punch of Crimson Glory's self-titled debut and the infalliable Transcendence (but that's a story for another time).
This, the former of the two, is, simply put, the greatest debut album ever. It is absolutely faultless in the unrelenting, convincing mystique of its power. It perfectly balances its epic structures with sheer powerful displays. It finds the ideal medium between crushing heaviness and a lighter, beautiful tone, all the while secure in its inarguable title of power metal. It puts to record the greatest vocal performance in the history of the known universe while simultaneously representing its best production ever, and this was in ‘effing 1986. Its attention to detail is peerlessly perceptive, and its consistency absolute. It's paradisiacal. Utopian. I could go on. If you were counting, I just used nine different alternatives for perfection in the last paragraph, and I'm just getting started. Did I mention that I like this?
Enough with the generic statements of Crimson Glory's overall worth, though. This deserves much more than that. Like I stated before, the style of music is in a similar vein as that of Queensryche, Fates Warning, and (especially on this release) Savatage, playing US power Metal with the slightest budding of progressive elements. The vocals are insanely high-pitched, the riffs heavy, and the lyrics fantasy-oriented. However, don't let any snobbish, bastard fan of the aforementioned bands tell you that this is a simply an emulation of their works or second rate in any shape or form. The music here is so original, so detached from anything else that even comparisons to its closest relatives seem inappropriate. It's hard to describe what makes this so special. On the surface, this album is one that seems simplistic and easy to pin down, but there are so many little intricacies that only reveal themselves over time. After hundreds of glorious listens over the years (no exaggeration), I still find new things to love about it each time.
The listens required to pick up all those details will be painless for any metal fan, thanks to the fact that this still sounds fresh off the shelves twenty-five years later. Each instrument is completely audible and seems to have its own distinct place in the mix. Not at any point will one struggle to hear a single thing in this elegant soundscape, avoiding the noisy din often marring the otherwise masterful craft of this time, such as Awaken the Guardian, released the very same year. Midnight's vocals effortlessly float on top of the music, and neither ever distracts from the other; and how could they, considering that both intertwine into a unique mystical sound unparalleled by any at the time. In retrospect, Crimson Glory's unbelievable accomplishments only make it sadder that they were forced to sell out atrociously due to a lack of success. It's a mad, mad world.
We shouldn't dwell on that now. I've yet to actually cover the songs yet, and believe me, they will reassure your faith in humanity. But first, to add to an already crowded list of this zenith's perfections, I must also include the amount of songs and album length. That's right, I'm going so far as to praise the elements that can be seen before even hearing the music! With eight songs and a somewhat modest 39-minute runtime, Crimson Glory never becomes boring and only tempts you to keeps listening to it. Over. And over. Again. The time has come to press play. From the very first second you're hit with one of the most badass, epic riffs ever written. "Valhalla" is what Crimson Glory is all about: no bullshit intro, no screwing around, just pure metal, just like we like it. All at least seems normal until Midnight arrives and makes his divine presence felt.
"Winds of Odin guide us
Over violent seas the silent grave
Gods of thunder
Roaring, crackling power
In flashing light, they pound the night"
So authoritative, so capable is Midnight's voice that one cannot help being enthralled by this band's visions of grandeur. Whether he uses his deep, thespian lows or his dog-deafening, dumbfounding highs, he completely dominates the album and every other vocalist of the era. After a melancholic solo, Midnight comes in with one of those reality-defying screams at about 2:45, only to go even HIGHER, as if to say, "Geoff Tate, I will eat your fucking soul!" If you and your stereo somehow survived that first merciless attack, there's only more fun to be had. "Dragon Lady" is perhaps the ultimate cut here, which is saying more in itself than words ever could. Midnight's finest hour and a catchy riff monster, this track is unbelievable. It also showcases the band's unique songwriting talent, busting out a strange structure and an extremely memorable chorus. The lyrics may be cheesy beyond belief, but I think that just enhances it.
Another facet of the band would be revealed next: the ability to write stirring, balladic material. "Heart of Steel" begins with one of the most beautiful slow passages I've ever heard. The elegant acoustic guitar rhythm builds up the atmosphere and then the track's value instantly escalates with Midnight's haunting, emotional vocals. If you don't feel something from this, check your heart for a pulse, because you must be dead inside. After about a minute, the song suddenly becomes a heavy, power outing, boasting a great verse riffs and a simplistic, if not catchy chorus. Arguably the centerpiece of the album, "Azrael" arrives next with another light intro, but soon erupts into the darkest, most evil sounding anthem in the Crimson Glory catalogue. I know I'm sounding like a broken record here, folks, but I can't emphasize enough Midnight's effect everywhere on this piece. His performance here in particular is demonic, and if you could imagine how the angel of death would sound, this would be it. Such cold conviction!
"Beware, my eyes'll find you
And see into your heart
And if you hold the evil
I'll rip you all apart
I'll cast your soul to Satan
Die by holy fire
Rise and stand before me
Burning on the pyre, burn!"
Sung like King Diamond, Martin Walkyier, and Jon Oliva combined. Hell yes. After this morbid phantom passes, we somehow still have half the album remaining. "Mayday" begins side two, the craziest, fastest piece of OTT metal here. Never stomping on the brakes once, even the chorus murders with vocals squealing like the lethal engine of the lyrics' focus. "Queen of the Masquerade" takes the most 80's possible style and gives it a Crimson Glory spin. Not even the hard-rockish feel and simplistic verse riff can detract; this is untouchable, through and through, and it features Drenning's most drawdropping solo of his career, save maybe "Eternal World." Nearing its conclusion, the album gets more somber and thoughtful, managing to bust out two darker and slower pieces without really submerging themselves into ballad territory.
"Angels of War" creeps to life with a dated sample, but comes full force with its brooding verse. By chorus time, you find yourself just about ready to drown in the catastrophic epicness of it all. Finally, the cult classic closer "Lost Reflection" is ready to scare the living crap out of unsuspecting victims everywhere. It seems like a ballad, but its growing tension and insanity reach such an unsettling level that it can no longer be one. I don't worship this one as much as many others do, but one cannot deny the originality and convincing horror put on display here, creating what's probably remembered to be Midnight's grandest moment.
Such sadly concludes one of the best testaments of perfection's existence. Only Crimson Glory themselves would manage to top this gothic portrait in the realm of all power metal, and even now I still find myself questioning my long-held opinion that Transcendence is the greatest album of all time. But, nonetheless, how could you go wrong with either of them, when both have NOTHING wrong with them? It should be wildly apparent by now that I am a huge fanboy of both this band and this album, and I can't lie; the sentimental value here goes on for miles, ever since I first heard it at age ten (200+ solid listens since and still counting). However, bias aside, I can't help but feel that all my praise is completely deserved. If this isn't deserved, I don't know what is. This is a desert island disc if there's ever been one. Hail!
Crimson Glory. The name alone conjures up images both majestic and fantastic, and couldn’t be more appropriate. Here is a band that for two solid albums leads the listener on an incomparable journey through cosmic realms of both glory and tragedy toward transcendence.
Crimson Glory form the third of what I consider the three pillars of white collar USPM, the other two being Queensryche and Fates Warning (naturally we’re talking about the early output of all three). Of the three, Crimson Glory exemplifies the most typical “white collar sound”, with its clearly NWOBHM and traditional metal influenced riffs (I hear a fair bit of Defenders of the Faith in there), flashy guitar leads, progressive touches, and wailing melodramatic vocals filtered through an undeniably 80s and just as undeniably awesome production. Not to say they were the most influential, but rather as the latest of the three the sound had had time to coalesce, and they were undoubtedly influenced by the earlier two pillars. In that respect, you could almost consider Crimson Glory the first of Fates Warning’s and Queensryche’s “children”. Still, they certainly bring their own touch to the table, sounding the most traditional of the three and eschewing most of Queensryche’s overt progressive rock influences and opting for a more human approach than Fates Warning. The existential angst is totally intact however, and just taking one look at the chrome masks the guys wore onstage will let you know they weren’t afraid of a little theatrics.
First and foremost we have Midnight, a singer fully worthy to stand with Tate and Arch. As a starting point, you could almost imagine Tate and Arch combined; operatic flair with nasal wailing and a lot of multi-tracking. Crank the range up to 11 and add some rock & roll sensibility (as heard on “Queen of the Masquerade”) and you’ve got an idea. Midnight’s upper register simply has to be heard to be believed. His real strength however lies in his emotional depth, the power of his delivery is just astounding. For example on “Azrael” he assumes the identity of the Angel of Death, and “I lock the gates of hell/I toll the final bell/I am forever” is just chilling coming out of his mouth. “Mayday” has him wailing at high pitch and lightning speed, while the album closer “Lost Reflection” puts him in the tragic role of an insane person hiding in an attic talking and laughing to himself and jumping at shadows. Midnight can smooth is voice into silk or screech and snarl with equal aplomb and amazing results. The vocal multi-tracking isn’t as esoteric as Arch’s and less subtle than Queensryche’s; here the techniques employed are much more traditional with harmony on choruses and key passages along with occasional background wails, just taken to the next level. Every song has at least some, and it only serves to amplify Midnight’s already superb vocal lines. One trick used fairly often that might be a little unusual is to have one Midnight sing a really high note (and I mean REALLY high) while the other Midnight sings a note a couple octaves below, usually on the chorus (see “Painted Skies”). This works a lot better than a closer harmony for accenting a key passage, as the large interval sounds really powerful. Though used regularly, it’s used with enough moderation that it doesn’t lose that power.
Right up there with the vocals have the amazing guitar leads and shredding solos of axe maestro Jon Drenning; the ubiquitous leads even start taking over the riffs on songs like “Azrael”, which is fine by me. What makes them even better is that the band doesn’t always put the vocals on pause for most of the leads, making for a lot of complex sections with two main melodies that just rule. Holy counterpoint, Batman! There are a lot of pinch harmonics, too, which totally work.
The rhythm section is no slouch either, with the bass, drums, and rhythm guitar reasonably in the background both compositionally and in the mix (much like Queensryche in that regard), but not such that you can ignore their excellent contributions. Compared to the average metal band, emphasis on the bass is up and emphasis on the riffs is down; a lot of them are descended from the NWOBHM gallop and sometimes the riffs just drop out altogether for leads, such as on “Angels of War”. The drums have a fair amount of reverb applied to them, and the whole production has a real “open” sound to it, like the band is performing in a cathedral.
I’ll just elaborate briefly on a few songs. The opener “Valhalla” is fantastic, with the introductory dual-lead perfectly setting the tone for the rest of the album. The non-standard song structure builds throughout, culminating in the attainment of Valhalla and some of the best wailing the album has to offer, with a great shredding solo/dual-lead combo sandwiched in there. “Heart of Steel” is another standout, and while its title brings to mind Accept’s Metal Heart, the song is actually a power ballad about the uncertainty of emotion and the necessity of hardening your heart. The leads and solos on this one especially are out in full force, and though the descending chorus riff is simple (contrasting perfectly with the alternately descending/ascending vocal lines for some great melodic tension) the other main riff smacks of the progressive in its complexity. Probably my favorite pick for the album however is “Azrael”, with the marching riffs and ominous lyrics and tone building eventually exploding into the promise of transcendence or damnation: “Fly on the wings of glory/Burn in the depths of hell/Your life creates the doorway/Death holds the key” over triumphantly shrieking lead/riffs. Its emotional power is such that it requires the comedown of “Mayday”, a fun and frenetic speed metal number clocking in at just over three minutes. Closing the album is the aforementioned “Lost Reflection”, which is a (mostly) acoustic ballad showcasing Midnight’s emotional dexterity as a hopeless man locked in the attic going slowly insane. It builds to a brief climactic explosion of howling madness with heavy riffs before almost immediately breaking down again to Midnight laughing and talking to himself before fading away. A very powerful piece, and a dark note to end the album on. Crimson Glory were very conscious of album pacing, with both “Valhalla” and “Azrael” followed by little breathers before building up again (as far as intensity goes, the tracks would look something like 31241234, which works very well).
This review continues with Part 2: http://www.metal-archives.com/review.php?id=2099
This is an easy album to get into, yet a very difficult one to fully comprehend in all of its elements, be they overt or subtle. It is definitely an album that fit in amongst the ever-expanding metal paradigm in the 80s, both in its conformity to the traditional songwriting motif of its time, yet its steeped in a sense of individualism that transcends any sort of cliché. The result is feeling a sense of musical déjà vu, knowing that you’ve heard something in this before despite never hearing the album, yet also experiencing a fresh melding of classic heavy metal riffs, a dense atmospheric production, and an eccentric yet accessible vocal delivery.
The first element that stands out, and often the one that is dwelled upon at the expense of the whole, is Midnight. Few vocalists are capable of channeling this level of somber yet menacing spirit through the human voice without coming off as cartoonish, in fact it could be argued that this band’s first two albums challenge the whole of King Diamond’s extensive discography. His voice is wicked to the core, exaggerating its own range to the point of invoking mystical images, yet still being mindful of melodic content and the need to blend with the rest of the arrangement. Its distinctiveness tends of overshadow the rest of the band, yet without what is behind it there would be no canvass for it to speak through.
The most crucial element, contrary to established and popular opinion surrounding the band’s vocal impresario, is the classic mid-80s atmosphere established within the production of each instrument. The heavy use of drum reverb, the distorted analog medium through which the guitars and voice pierce their way into the airwaves, and the depth and illusion of great distance between all in the arrangement all invoke images of darkened forests, black swamps, misty caverns and other haunting scenes consistent with the vocalist’s stage name. Comparisons could be made to King Diamond’s “Abigail”, Sacred Blade’s “Of The Sun + Moon” and for a more recent example Nightmare’s “Cosmovision”, all of which stand in direct contrast to the dead sound that populates most of today’s heavier music.
But while the band displays a musical character well within its own realm, the music between the most obvious and the most subtle aspects of this album presents itself as a series of improvements/variants on established ideas. Many of these ideas parallel the traditions originally set forth by Black Sabbath, while different ones lend themselves to a mixture of NWOBHM inspired riffs, Judas Priest influenced lead playing ideas. Most of the songs tend to fix themselves within the bounds of straight heavy metal and pre-thrash speed metal, and only occasionally breaks towards the progressive realm frequented by Fates Warning and others, usually through an occasional fit of vocal expressionism combined with an unusual blend of acoustic instruments and synthesizers.
The influences driving this album are many, and though commonplace amongst the trends of the time, are displayed in unusual fashions. Dio era Black Sabbath, particularly “Heaven And Hell” is heavily present on both the half-ballads and the mid-tempo selections on here, most notably in “Valhalla” and “Angels Of War”, both of which present more complex and riff happy variants on the classic Sabbath album’s title track with vocals that are menacing rather than epic. An undeniable classic amongst the songs touting a similar influence is “Azrael”, putting forth a distant sounding acoustic intro that seems to be miles away, which consequently provides a change in feel twice as jolting as was heard on “Children Of The Sea” when the guitars fully chime in. Midnight’s vocal delivery isn’t merely wicked, but downright hellish, as it jumps in and out of high and low registers rapidly and refuses to let go of its growl-like quality even when attempting to sound subdued.
Inspirations depart from the Sabbath model almost as frequently as they are invoked, mostly for a slightly darker and theatric take on Judas Priest’s approach to speed metal. “Dragon Lady” definitely takes some riff ideas from said band, but presents them in a much more elaborate fashion, often accentuating simple ideas with melodic lead breaks similar to something off King Diamond’s “Fatal Portrait”, as well as throwing in a few studio tricks to keep the ears’ sense of depth perception guessing. “Mayday” essentially as a less glorious and more horrific take on Iron Maiden’s “Aces High” in a Priest meets Motorhead fashion, complete with Midnight’s soaring banshee wails invoking images of The Challenger disaster, which I think is the subject of this particular song. The riff assault is unrelenting and the lead breaks are agitated, coming together in a fit of speed metal fury that parallels “Painkiller” and “Thundersteel”, yet was obviously put out well before either album.
But to any prospective listener, the greatest and most underrated song on here also points heaviest to the band’s progressive half. In a sheer fit of irony, Crimson Glory essentially overshadows 7 compositions aching with riffs and choruses with a twisted ballad consisting of 2 chords, a ton of Pink Floyd stylistic references, and a downplaying of the witchcraft and horror in favor of a poignant look into the realm of insanity. All that can really be said about “Lost Reflection” is that it tells a story that will grip any listener, inspiring either sympathy or sadness as Midnight’s vocal character wails in agony, mania and confusion. The atmosphere is deep enough to drown in, as a series of studio looping effects and manipulated string orchestra sounds play off of the vocal recitations in a sort of updated version of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” meets Iron Maiden’s “Remember Tomorrow”.
In every sense of the word, this album is a standard. It is a fit of artistic emotionalism within the early days of power metal that runs somewhat parallel to the NWOBHM and early black metal, and one that contrasts with the epic storytelling and triumphant anthems set forth by Manowar, Iron Maiden and Helloween. It’s a road less traveled by bands in the genre, and one that should be explored by any fan of heavy metal. Along with the album that followed it, Crimson Glory’s debut is something that any self-respecting fan of metal should know of, and stands tall amongst a sea of classics that populated the time of its conception.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on December 6, 2008.
Crimson Glory hail from Sarasota, Florida. Originally, Crimson Glory started under the name "Beowulf" in 1982. Eventually, Beowulf (then comprised of guitarists Jon Drenning, Ben Jackson, and bassists Jeff Lords) saw the addition of drummer Dana Burnell and the trumpet-tongued vocalist, Midnight. With the addition of Midnight and Dana, Crimson Glory was born. As an extra note, the band wore masks such as the one depicted in the cd cover, on stage.
This album is very well done, and one of the shining examples of the US heavy metal. Midnight is a very strong singer, a component which makes or breaks these sort of bands.
Crimson Glory are very similar to early Queensryche, Fates Warning, Fifth Angel, etc.
Jon Drenning does a good job on guitar, as do all the members at their respective instruments.
"Mayday", is a good showcasing of Midnight's ability, though certainly all songs which he is singing on do that as well. The song "Azrael", in my opinion, is the best moment of this album. In the beginning it starts out slow, only to go into an awesome riff combined with the intensity of Midnight's voice. The lyrics are in basic praise to Azrael, the "angel of mercy". Midnight sings the majority of this song as Azrael, making the song much more interesting. Overall, you will find that the majority of Crimson Glory's lyrics are about mystic/intriguing women and/or science fiction/astronomy. Examples of songs about such women are "Dragon Lady" and "Queen Of The Masquerade", which are both great songs. The slow paced yet eery song, "Lost Reflections" is quite a good closer, and contains a great climax. You will not be dissappointed with this album. "Crimson Glory" is utterly fantastic, and it receives my highest recommendations.
Suggested Tracks: Azrael, , Heart Of Steel, Queen Of The Masquerade, Lost Reflections
The self-titled debut of the amazing but completely underrated 80's melodic metal band Crimson Glory is not quite as strong as the follow-up Transcendence, but this is another amazing piece of atmospheric metal the way only these guys can make it.
We'll start off with the biggest reason why this doesn't quite reach up to it's potential: The production of the album is quite weak and far too low, and thus the album loses alot of the power and intensity found on the follow-up. But the guys more than make up for this flaw in excellent songwriting.
This one is more upbeat and straightforward heavy metal in general than Transcendence, with catchy tunes such as Dragon Lady and Queen of the Masquerade, but the melodies they construct in here are just as mesmerizing as those of the follow-up, and truly add a certain feeling and atmosphere that is quite impossible to describe.
The band's performances are incredible, with the amazing vocalist Midnight and guitar duo Jon Drenning and Ben Jackson standing out as the most importnant forces of the album. The guitarwork, though, isn't quite as varied or well thought out as it would get, and it sometimes loses the effect it should have due to the somewhat weak production, but most of the times it rocks like all fucking hell.
Unlike Transcendence where the drumwork sounded like some sort of drum machine, this is the real deal and sounds much more alive and inspired. The bass is also much more audible than on the follow-up, and it manages to add alot to the feeling of the album.
The unique songwriting that abound on the first two Crimson Glory albums is something out of the ordinary, and should be experienced by every true metalhead out there.
Songs like Valhalla, Dragon Lady and Queen of the Masquerade feature menacing riffwork circling around mystical lyrical themes and passionate, powerful vocal performances giving off a truly unique vibe. Then of course we have the speed metal monster of Mayday, which has killer shredding soloing and some of the highest screams ever heard in metal- check out that insane chorus. But, I think he actually tops the song on the bridge of Angels of War.
There are two ballads found on the album, Heart of Steel and Lost Reflection. The former being a very emotional and quite sad tale of love, similar to the ballads on the follow-up, while the latter is a menacing acoustic tale that explodes into madness towards the end.
But the definite highlight of the first two Crimson Glory albums is Azrael. The acoustic intro build up a dark, hellish atmosphere and then just transcends into ownage with sinister, galloping riffwork and some of the most awesome and evil-sounding vocal lines ever. "Stare in the raven's eye, your time has come to die- Welcome to my world!" That's one of the coolest moments in metal. Angels of War also deserves special mention with more awesome galloping riffwork, a killer melodic chorus and a very mesmerizing yet evil atmosphere.
With Crimson Glory's first two albums, they have created something legendary. They both give off unique vibes, and they are both classics of true melodic heavy metal. The band constantly impresses with heavy riffwork and harmonizing leads, amazing vocal performances ranging from a powerful midrange to a sinister scream, and great musicianship in general. This album definitely shouldn't be too hard to track down, and it's definitely worth the price if you find it.
One of the real joys that the diehard metal or music listener has is digging through the history books and the record stores for new, usually obscure music to listen to. The reward comes in full when the band or album sought out proves to be high quality - and the term can certainly be applied to Crimson Glory's first two albums. Their debut is a stunning, somewhat obscure pantheon of metal that (literally) *screams* 'classic' in just about every way. 8 songs (though there are 9 on the ultra-rare cassette version of the album) and not a one of them is filler. This could be called "Keeper Syndrome", referring to the fact that you probably don't really like metal too much if you can't find at least one song on this album to merit keeping it, and to the suspicious lack of bad songs on Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys 1&2 albums as well, released within the same timeframe. Just what is it about the years 1986/1987 that made just about everything that came out in the metal world a classic or potential classic, anyway?
Crimson Glory weaves a dark web of classic, brimstone seasoned power/traditional metal on this album in the vein of Queensrÿche, King Diamond, and Iron Maiden, but with their own unique twist. Vocalist Midnight is one of the best in his game, with an emotionally charged Halford meets Tate delivery, and is a big part in really making this album something special. There are superb guitar harmonies all around thanks to Jon Drenning and Ben Jackson, and the drumming is fresh sounding and energetic. You can even hear the bass work well on this album, showing that Crimson Glory were not going to settle for the status quo heavy metal album. The songwriting is top notch and in a word, "professional", mainly running a dark line through various myth/fantasy topics that work well with the steely atmosphere the band lays down without flaw in vibe or musicianship. I can't really say there's a lot of highlights on this album, mainly because every song is so good, but one favorite is Azrael, where Midnight gives one of his career performances, storytelling, screeching, - and sometimes terrorizing - the listener through a dark, spiritual vision over raging guitarwork. That's one of the charms of Crimson Glory - their ability to work you into their strange, spiritual, imaginative world, but yet you never stop pumping your fist in the real world, with the metal blasting proudly out of your speakers. Not that you can't "think and rock at the same time", as it's a cliche that should gleefully be put to death for all of eternity, it's just that Crimson Glory does it so well, and that's why they are a classic metal band.
Other songs worth noting (if I have to pick) are Valhalla, Heart of Steel, and the eerie Lost Reflection, featuring Midnight at his maddening best, telling an acoustic tale of exile and insanity in the attic within the first 3 minutes before he leads the band's explosion into the album's chilling finale.
Every song on this album is great, although every one is not perfect, but there's not too many albums that can hold that title. As aforementioned, the cassette version has an extra song, Dream Dancer, which is an absolute masterpiece that is aptly named, and if it was on the CD version then my review would say 97%. Let's hope for a reissue.....