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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.