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The sale of top secret weapons, built for the purpose of destroying car stereo CD players across the globe, to the general masses is likely a matter of greater importance to the world’s governments than all of the Middle Eastern bogeymen they’ve created through their actions. But fortunately for those of us looking for the musical gems within these buzz saw shaped radio destroyers, we won’t have to fear the NSA breaking down our doors to confiscate our copies of the last offering of the now twice defunct 80s power metal powerhouse Crimson Glory.
After you’ve heeded the warning label and avoided getting this odd shaped CD stuck in anything other than a traditional discman, there is a very revealing picture to be viewed for both young and old followers of all things red and glorious. The first is the remake and demo versions of three of the better songs on the not so well received comeback album “Astronomica”. Aside from an extremely mechanical sounding production and a few rhythmic abnormalities in the title track of this EP, the songwriting stays relatively consistent with what was heard on “Transcendence”. The sound is large, bombastic, and quite ominous between the fill happy traveling riffs and otherworldly atmosphere.
To be fully honest, most of the music on Astronomica was actually quite good, but the same can not be said for the vocal work of Wade Black. The problem is that what is heard sounds like it’s trying so damn hard to be technically and emotionally over the top that it would rival the man who has been replaced, fully unaware that Midnight’s power was not in his occasional octave range jumps or raspy growls, but in how sparingly he actually used them and how organized the melodies he sang actually were. Black’s voice just meanders like crazy throughout “War of the Worlds”, sounding like the confused little brother of Rob Halford (who himself would not have been able to pull off fronting this band) on the verge of alcohol poisoning. “Touch the Sun” has the closest thing to an organized vocal line, but sounds nothing close to the same dramatic character that Midnight brought to the mix.
If I was rating this solely on the Astronomica material, this would likely be somewhere in the high 60s, but the presence of the two live tracks from the Transcendence tour with Midnight at the helm basically make this otherwise odd release something worth picking up. The entire band’s sound is tight and full of energy as they blast through sonically perfect renditions of “Dragon Lady” and “Eternal World”, while Midnight does the same amazing job in one live take what is heard on the band’s first 2 studio albums. The guitar solo after “Dragon Lady” has a unique character, avoiding the overblown speed patterns of a George Lynch or the eccentric Neo-classical showmanship of Yngwie Malmsteen and instead putting forth something that sounds like it was born in a distant nebula, trading fast comet showers for a whole lot of electromagnetic wave sounding pitch manipulation.
Crimson Glory fans will likely want to pick this up both for the 2 live songs with Midnight at the helm, and also for research purposes on how much they’d like to spend on Astronomica, should they find themselves curious as to what the band sounds like with a singer who some have pegged a second-rate Tim Owens. I can’t fully fault Wade Black for the less than stellar vocal product on here because I don’t think he wrote any of these disorganized melodic lines, nor do I think what he was given could have been sung well by anyone. May this be a lesson to anyone writing a song for someone else to sing; if you can’t hum the tune, then there is a good chance it won’t sound good even if you convinced Placido Domingo to sing it.