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Rating explanation

3 tablatures for Crimson Glory


Crimson Glory - s/t (10/10) - USA - 1986

Genre: Power Metal / Progressive Metal
Label: Roadrunner Records
Playing time: 38:51
Band homepage: Crimson Glory

Tracklist:

  1. Valhalla
  2. Dragon Lady
  3. Heart Of Steel
  4. Azrael
  5. Mayday
  6. Queen Of The Masquerade
  7. Angels Of War
  8. Lost Reflection
Crimson Glory - s/t

This is an easy album to get into, yet a very difficult one to fully comprehend in all of its elements, be they overt or subtle. It is definitely an album that fit in amongst the ever-expanding Metal paradigm in the 80s, both in its conformity to the traditional songwriting motif of its time, yet its steeped in a sense of individualism that transcends any sort of cliché. The result is feeling a sense of musical déjà vu, knowing that you’ve heard something in this before despite never hearing the album, yet also experiencing a fresh melding of classic Heavy Metal riffs, a dense atmospheric production, and an eccentric yet accessible vocal delivery.

 

The first element that stands out, and often the one that is dwelled upon at the expense of the whole, is Midnight. Few vocalists are capable of channeling this level of somber yet menacing spirit through the human voice without coming off as cartoonish, in fact it could be argued that these two albums challenge the whole of KING DIAMOND’s extensive discography. His voice is wicked to the core, exaggerating its own range to the point of invoking mystical images, yet still being mindful of melodic content and the need to blend with the rest of the arrangement. Its distinctiveness tends of overshadow the rest of the band, yet without what is behind it there would be no canvass for it to speak through.

 

The most crucial element, contrary to established and popular opinion surrounding the band’s vocal impresario, is the classic mid-80s atmosphere established within the production of each instrument. The heavy use of drum reverb, the distorted analog medium through which the guitars and voice pierce their way into the airwaves, and the depth and illusion of great distance between all in the arrangement all invoke images of darkened forests, black swamps, misty caverns and other haunting scenes consistent with the vocalist’s stage name. Comparisons could be made to KING DIAMOND’s “Abigail”, SACRED BLADE’s “Of The Sun + Moon” and for a more recent example, NIGHTMARE’s “Cosmovision”, all of which stand in direct contrast to the dead sound that populates most of today’s heavier music.

 

But while the band displays a musical character well within its own realm, the music between the most obvious and the most subtle aspects of this album presents itself as a series of improvements/variants on established ideas. Many of these ideas parallel the traditions originally set forth by BLACK SABBATH, while different ones lend themselves to a mixture of NWOBHM inspired riffs, JUDAS PRIEST influenced lead playing ideas. Most of the songs tend to fix themselves within the bounds of straight Heavy Metal and pre-Thrash Speed Metal, and only occasionally breaks towards the Progressive realm frequented by FATES WARNING and others, usually through an occasional fit of vocal expressionism combined with an unusual blend of acoustic instruments and synthesizers.

 

The influences driving this album are many, and though commonplace amongst the trends of the time, are displayed in unusual fashions.  DIO era BLACK SABBATH, particularly “Heaven And Hell” is heavily present on both the half-ballads and the mid-tempo selections on here, most notably in “Valhalla” and “Angels Of War”, both of which present more complex and riff happy variants on the classic SABBATH album’s title track with vocals that are menacing rather than epic. An undeniable classic amongst the songs touting a similar influence is “Azrael”, putting forth a distant sounding acoustic intro that seems to be miles away, which consequently provides a change in feel twice as jolting as was heard on “Children Of The Sea” when the guitars fully chime in. Midnight’s vocal delivery isn’t merely wicked, but downright hellish, as it jumps in and out of high and low registers rapidly and refuses to let go of its growl-like quality even when attempting to sound subdued.

 

Inspirations depart from the SABBATH model almost as frequently as they invoke them, mostly for a slightly darker and theatric take on JUDAS PRIEST’S approach to Speed Metal. “Dragon Lady” definitely takes some riff ideas from said band, but presents them in a much more elaborate fashion, often accentuating simple ideas with melodic lead breaks similar to something off KING DIAMOND’s “Fatal Portrait”, as well as throwing in a few studio tricks to keep the ears’ sense of depth perception guessing. “Mayday” essentially as a less glorious and more horrific take on IRON MAIDEN’s “Aces High” in a PRIEST meets MOTORHEAD fashion, complete with Midnight’s soaring banshee wails invoking images of The Challenger disaster, which I think is the subject of this particular song. The riff assault is unrelenting and the lead breaks are agitated, coming together in a fit of Speed Metal fury that parallels “Painkiller” and “Thundersteel”, yet was obviously put out well before either album.

 

But to any prospective listener, the greatest and most underrated song on here also points heaviest to the band’s Progressive half. In a sheer fit of irony, CRIMSON GLORY essentially overshadows 7 compositions aching with riffs and choruses with a twisted ballad consisting of 2 chords, a ton of PINK FLOYD stylistic references, and a downplaying of the witchcraft and horror in favor of a poignant look into the realm of insanity. All that can really be said about “Lost Reflection” is that it tells a story that will grip any listener, inspiring either sympathy or sadness as Midnight’s vocal character wails in agony, mania and confusion. The atmosphere is deep enough to drown in, as a series of studio looping effects and manipulated string orchestra sounds play off of the vocal recitations in a sort of updated version of PINK FLOYD’s “Hey You” meets IRON MAIDEN’s “Remember Tomorrow”.

 

In every sense of the word, this album is a standard. It is a fit of artistic emotionalism within the early days of Power Metal that runs somewhat parallel to the NWOBHM and early Black Metal, and one that contrasts with the epic storytelling and triumphant anthems set forth by MANOWAR, IRON MAIDEN and HELLOWEEN. It’s a road less traveled by bands in the genre, and one that should be explored by any fan of Heavy Metal. Along with the album that followed it, CRIMSON GLORY’S debut is something that any self-respecting fan of Metal should know of, and stands tall amongst a sea of classics that populated the time of its conception.

(Online December 23, 2008)

Jonathan Smith



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