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Faded Beauties and Unglorified Cavaliers - 38%

bayern, October 11th, 2017

Yes, the world was never going to be the same again as the 90’s entered. The metal fanbase had to bid farewell to their musical pleasures as they were never going to sound the same as before. In fact, they were only going to get worse with time… with a few minor exceptions… except for the cynical unpretentious groove lover, of course, the new kid on metal fandom block.

1991 served quite a few masterpieces to the disillusioned metal heads, but also made sure that everyone had remained updated on the oncoming changes which were first and foremost provided by the big names. The Black Album seems to take most of the rap in this train of thought, but there were much bigger offenders than this blockbuster, and they also chronologically came before it if we have to be perfectly objective. Helloween’s “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” was one of them although the guys somehow managed to keep themselves afloat above the laughing stock level, even without Kai Hansen… for the time being at least.

Another one was the album reviewed here, an unapologetic flop that finds its rightful place among the biggest embarrassments the metal arena has ever experienced like Celtic Frost’s “Cold Lake”, Kreator’s “Endorama”, Megadeth’s “Risk”, Helloween’s “Chameleon”, Destruction’s 1998 album with the very long title that I never have the proper time to write it all… and others, of course. This is also one of the most perfect examples of why an album like that should be, must be released under a different moniker as the damage it could do to the band’s reputation could be irreparable…and it was.

Cause to return after such a charade it takes quite a bit of courage, or rather downright temerity, or shall we just label it as shamelessness for the lack of a better term. I don’t know, the only possible excuse for the existence of this “godless beauty” here could be the departure of both Ben Jackson and Dana Burnell after the godly “Transcendence”. With the return of the former for “Astronomica” things got way better… way way better.

With their first two instalments Crimson Glory put themselves so strongly on the metal map that at some stage it seemed as though they had been standing there all along, on the very front, alongside Scorpions, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Metallica and all the other pioneers. It seemed as though the metal world never tangibly existed without their contribution regardless of how small it was compared to the other mentioned acts. They very quickly caught up with their main rivals on the progressive metal arena in their homeland Fates Warning, Queensryche, and Savatage, and by the end of the 80’s they pretty much looked indomitable, and perennially enigmatic as well hidden behind these silver masks...

In 1991 I couldn’t care less about departed musicians, label changes, new musical trends, and all that jazz. I was simply eagerly anticipating a distinguished follow-up to one of the twenty greatest metal albums in metal history… The first time I had to deal with this “opus” I only went as far as the half of the second track; I couldn’t possibly insult my intelligence any further listening to this… Crimson Glory my ass; this had to be another band…

Well, it was Crimson Glory all right, only that the kings of progressive power metal had decided to radically shift gears; which wasn’t an abnormal decision by any stretch at the time, when you think of it, only that our maskers were pretty much the first ones to do that, and they set the worst possible example to follow. And, we can’t talk about shifting gears here per se simply cause there were no gears whatsoever to be shifted; this is one of the most gearless recordings out there. It doesn’t need gears since it doesn’t go anywhere; it stays at exactly the same place from the first to the last note….

So our legends have opted for a cheesy, sleazy, glammy, poppy, idyllic brand of rock/metal, dreamy “beautiful” stuff that would be the perfect background for the elderly at the pensioners’ club across the street while they go around playing cards, chess or plain chatting. One of these days I should probably go there bringing a CD with me; it may brighten their lives, but it may as well shorten them, you never know… it’s a risky proposition for sure, including for the reviewer here who had to endure it the other day, but strictly for this writing, no other reasons, mind you!

Strangely (and also “beautifully”) enough, the opening title-track is pretty much the only one that can be tolerated, still with a big reserve, by the hardened fanbase as it does have some dramatic verve, some proto-heavy riffage and a few intriguing melodic hooks; and, one has to give it to Midnight (R.I.P.) whose emotional, pathos-like contribution can’t be completely ignored. But even he can do very, very little to redeem what follows which is already out the window with the very second cut “Promise Land” which promises grand scale entertainment for all Poison and Cinderella lovers who would rush to the nearest tattoo studio to have the band’s name engraved right next to the hearts, the guns and the roses on their bodies. Yes, the half of that track would be the end of the road for 90% of the audience…

The remaining 10% will have to put up with “Love and Dreams”, 5.5-min of lyrical tender balladisms which may melt the hearts of all the damsels in the neighbourhood, but even if all of them come holding onto your arms, legs and whatever other appendages of your body they could get a hold of, this simply won’t arouse you as you will be totally shocked, trying to figure how the authors of “Red Sharks” have come to this travesty. And it’s not over yet as the next string of sweet glam rockers will even make the Motley Crue crew turn away, trying to politely hide the compulsive spasms of laughter. And like the mentioned “Love and Dreams” wasn’t enough, here comes another ballad, “Song for Angels”, which should be picked immediately by all cheese producers in France and Switzerland for the ultimate cheese commercial; that would have been some way for the guys to make a few bucks on the side cause with this particular kind of music they shouldn’t have gone very far in the box-office. “In the Mood” is only the next in line mood spoiler, a melancholic toothless rocker that Chicago and Toto would not even consider for the B-sides of their minor recordings. At that stage even Midnight has given up “fighting” against the instilled indifference, and his performance becomes equally as impotent as the one of his colleagues by the end of this lengthy, over an hour saga which contains more ballads, more cheese, and more glammy stickiness, or sticky glamminess, if you prefer, among other abominable… sorry, unnameable gimmicks that are simply too painful to bear.

Yeah, I know, to fall more deplorably than that one really has to try. It’s hard to believe that someone in his/her right mind had given a go for this to be released... But I guess it was the “anything goes” environment during those amorphous, flippant times that allowed that to happen; times when everyone was experimenting with all kinds of more or less relevant music sounds, trying to please the newly forming fanbase to which Crimson Glory obviously had nothing to offer anymore. I’m not sure that even the musicians themselves were even remotely pleased by the final result; there was no way anyone would have given them another chance after it… And not surprisingly, the guys vanished shortly after, deep in the underground cause the masks alone wouldn’t have been enough to hide the shame from this unpardonable parody.

“Astronomica” must have been selected as a reference to the band’s last showing title-wise; the guys were only too well aware that anything else they would have come up with after it was going to be astronomically higher, and ultimately better. As a rule I wouldn’t give a score lower than 45% to a work of metal art, having in mind all the effort and labour, and thought put into it, but it’s always good to have the odd “beauty” around, like the one here for instance, to provide the isolated, “sweet” violation of such rules. So it wasn’t all in vain, after all… good job.