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Cryonic - Kings of Avalon - 50%

Radagast, April 4th, 2012

You want tired platitudes? I can get you tired platitudes. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” “Hardly reinventing the wheel.” “It’s a classic for a reason.” Yadda yadda. It’s hard not to talk in clichés sometimes, especially when dealing with bands like Cryonic who seem to suffer from the same problem themselves. Their debut, ‘Evil mind’ was a surprisingly fresh sounding CD given its predictable nature, and, in melodic power metal terms, was a nice throwback to the simpler times of the turn of the century.

Despite the departure of the band’s keyboard player, with no replacement coming in, there is very little notable change to the overall style, perhaps highlighting how superfluous some of the keyboard sections on the debut actually were. Cementing this “the same, but different” approach on ‘Kings of Avalon’ is the re-recording of “Kings of the hill” (opener last time around, track 2 here) as the song remains more or less identical to its first incarnation only with the keys that filled little bits of space here and there cropped out.

A bit of a pointless re-recording really, as it’s not like ‘Evil mind’ is any harder to get a hold of than this CD, but it helps continue the forward momentum built by “Avalon”, an inspiring opening track with a powerful, galloping chorus. It’s telling though that the best songs on here are shoved to the front, as while things continue in a positive fashion for a while, ‘Kings of Avalon’ takes an alarming nose-dive at the mid-point that it never fully recovers from.

The beginning of this sorry sojourn is “No more”, a complete mess of a tune made up of lumpen, grooving verses (with some grating “get outta my face” lyrics straight from the Book of Anselmo to match), an off-the-pace vocal performance and punctured by some ridiculous dead stops in the music just prior to the deathly dull chorus.

If almost the entire 2nd half of the CD is a black hole of mediocrity, “No regrets” would be the singularity at the centre of it, but it’s actually one of the lesser offenders, suffering the crime of merely being an extremely bland song in a sea of dullness. 2 crummy ballads cause a lot of the problems – softer songs are often an effective gauge for the depth of a band’s imagination, and “Seven doors” and “The one” are textbooks examples of trite, by-the-numbers rubbish.

The limitations of the vocalist (yes, he’s still called Bigswede) are shown up here, as while he gets by fine on the more upbeat songs where his off the wall falsetto adds a lot of character, it really sounds like he has no idea how to project his voice on the more restrained moments and sounds almost like he’s mumbling his way through them waiting for the chorus to come to the rescue.

He remains one of the band’s biggest draws when used effectively though, and on “Demon” (the only halfway decent song in the wasteland between tracks 6 and 10) he even shows off some phlegmy Udo Dirkschneider-style screeches, so I can’t give him too much stick.

It’s not all bad news after the halfway mark though, as “Free like an eagle” engages its booster rockers just in time to escape the event horizon encompassing all the forgettable midtempo rehashes and slushy balladeering to let the CD finish on an upbeat, uptempo note crowned with another more than satisfactory chorus.

It’s rare to see a CD collapse in so spectacular a fashion as “Kings of Avalon” does, and it’s even more puzzling that if the opening 5 songs and the closer had been released as an EP it would be really strong offering. The odd bit of filler here and there is forgivable, but for almost half of a CD to be completely throwaway after a pretty strong opening makes one wonder exactly what went wrong during the writing process.

With 6 songs that are there to be enjoyed, it would be unfair to dismiss the CD out of hand, but with almost as many that can go straight in the bin, only someone with more money than sense would shell out for this one at full price.

(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)