Crystal Eyes – Starbourne Traveler Review

Score9/10
GenreMelodic Heavy Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime44:20
Release Date6 December 2019
Record LabelMassacre

Of all the “crystal” bands to release an album this year (Crystal Sky, Crystal Viper, Crystal Ball, I think that’s it?), Sweden’s Crystal Eyes have topped the competition. Starbourne Traveler sees the melodic heavy metallers perform a wide array of styles in ten super-melodic tracks of anthemic true metal. With influences including Judas Priest, Accept, U.D.O., and Running Wild, you can expect one hell of a ride.

The album begins with its grittiest foot forward in metal-worshipping ‘Gods of Disorder’ and continues to expand from there. There are a few tracks that are primarily hard rock, such as ‘Paradise Powerlord’ and ‘Corridors of Time’, which tread closely to classic Van Halen in terms of riffage and melody. There’s also a hefty serving of catchy, 80s hair metal to enjoy, as well as some power metal drivers in ‘Extreme Paranoia’ and the piratey closer, ‘Rage on the Sea’. In terms of variety, Crystal Eyes have held nothing back, which is impressive considering that they retain a solid core sound throughout Starbourne Traveler‘s entirety.

If you’re looking for highlights, the axemanship is easily my favourite aspect of the album. The non-stop riffs, chugging rhythms, and tasteful solos are enough on their own to suck you into the album. Fortunately, everything else is pretty fucking solid, so there’s no need to cherry pick. Well, everything except for the ballad, ‘Empire of Saints’, which is kinda mopey and boring, but hey, the rest of the album is excellent.

Starbourne Traveler has no trouble in bringing the classic Crystal Eyes sound (in fact, the songs ‘Extreme Paranoia’ and ‘Rage on the Sea’ are rerecordings from the band’s debut, World of Black and Silver) with the clarity and weight of modern heavy metal. There’s something here for fans of old-school rock and metal as well as newer metalheads, so don’t miss the shiniest “crystal” of the year!

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Secret Chapter – Chapter One Review

Score8.5/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryNorway
Runtime43:15
Release Date18 October 2019
Record LabelCrime

Sit down and strap the fuck in because Secret Chapter are going to take you on a nostalgic ride back to the 80s with their hyper-melodic, solo-rific debut, Chapter One. While the title isn’t all that creative, you can be damn sure that the music will impress. The vocals are high and full of layers, the rhythm section is tight, and the album offers an array of songs from glam to power metal.

While Chapter One treads a similar sound he likes of Skid Row, TNT, Europe, and 80s hair metal in general, it keeps things interesting by maintaining a modern heavy metal undertone. The production, layered instrumentation, and driving riffs combined with undoubtedly 80s choruses allow for the best of both worlds, and there’s no shortage of passion or aggression. A lot of 80s metal bands just sound like refined metal from the era (if that), but Secret Chapter manage to maintain individuality by putting their own musical spin on things.

And don’t even get me started on the solos because guitarist Jon Aarseth and keymaster Magnus Johansen lay down some serious facemelters. ‘Human Centipede’ (weird theme for a song, right?) delivers synth excellence, and notable guitar solos can be found in ‘Baptized in Ecstasy’, ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘One Night Aint Enough’. That being said, there’s not a solo on the album that doesn’t get my blood flowing.

The only thing preventing Chapter One from scoring higher is the fact that there are a couple tracks that seem like filler. ‘Sin City’ and the ballad, ‘Heavy Metal Love Affair’, while still good songs, don’t carry the same charm and flare that the rest of the tracks do. Their foundations are solid, but they’re considerably weaker than the rest.

Seeing as Secret Chapter shove 80s heavy metal in your face as shamelessly hard as possible, it’d be safe to assume that I harbour a deep love them. Not only that, but the sheer skill every bandmate possesses plays a key part in the unique sound they’ve achieved with Chapter One. Hopefully, there will be more chapters to enjoy in the near future.

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DragonForce – Extreme Power Metal Artwork Review

Out of my immense excitement upon first seeing it, I’ve decided to do something a bit different; I’ll review the artwork of an album. Why, you may ask? Because this just might be the single greatest image to ever grace the metal world.

Score10/10
Artist(Searching)

Even more than their first single, DragonForce’s Extreme Power Metal cover art has every bone in my body amped to the max for September, when the album finally comes out.

But, before I talk about what I like so much about it, let me first address something. Since DragonForce’s announcement, I’ve seen countless comments and posts from people saying shit like, “DragonForce is just a parody now,” and “This isn’t real DragonForce,” to which I call massive bullshit.

Before the genesis of the band, Sam Totman and Herman Li were in a band called Demoniac. It was a black/power metal band with lyrical themes that are, to say it conservatively, a little bit fucked. The band mostly existed for the purpose of creating shocking and ridiculous music, and, in that, they succeeded. The duo ditched the band in 99 to form DragonForce with the intent to make super-fast power metal the likes have never been seen.

Fast forward to 2006’s Inhuman Rampage, where DragonForce dialed everything their music was famous for in their first two albums way up. The relentless speed and heavy sound were pushed even further, and even their lyrics began to embody a bit more of a tongue-in-cheek power metal approach rather than a thoughtful lyric selection. This lyrical trend spiraled out of control in each consecutive album, with upbeat fantasy lyrics eventually being recycled as if being put into a blender and written down as they were poured out. Their latest album, Reaching into Infinity, embodies this perfectly, with most of its songs being almost-nonsensical (which doesn’t make the music any less serious, by the way).

So, as you can see, the ridiculousness portrayed by Extreme Power Metal‘s artwork is just DragonForce being DragonForce. It might seem like it’s been a slight slope downward into Jokesville since 2006, but let me also remind you that this video existed way back then, and it exceeds the fuckery that is EPM‘s cover:

Yeah. Remember this? This is more bizarre than anything they’ve done since, so fuck off with the “DragonForce used to be serious,” schtick, because that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Now, carrying on to the album artwork. Where do I even begin? Well, to start, I guess I should point out the obvious: the 80s aesthetic. This artwork perfectly embodies the 80s revival of the past five or so years and the whole TRON/Arcade/Cyberpunk thing really works for the band. Also, that huge explosion adds a ton of action and movement to the piece.

Seeing that flying laser car on the left, I instantly think of Knight Rider and Back to the Future. It’s such a silly touch to an already-silly picture, so bonus points there. Actually, now that I think of it, it also makes me think of that Scarface/GTA Vice City couch gag from The Simpsons.

It’s also really nice to actually have another dragon on a DragonForce cover (because Reaching into Infinity is the only other one to have a dragon, weirdly enough). And then there’s my favourite part, which is how god damn stupid Sam’s face looks.

Herman and Marc are running from the intense explosion of reality with their baddest and raddest faces on, meanwhile Sam is standing there looking like a reject lego piece. Simply wonderful.

In conclusion, this is both the cheesiest and best album cover I’ve ever seen in my entire life, ever. Not only does it capture the DragonForce essence, but it also captures my love of the 80s and the spirit of power metal itself. If this picture is any indication, Extreme Power Metal just might be DragonForce’s best since Valley of the Damned.

Extreme Power Metal comes out on 27 September. Don’t miss it!

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