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Crystal Eyes
Dead City Dreaming

Company: Heavy Fidelity
Release: 2006
Reviewer: Vinaya
Genre: Power
Rating
4



  • A breath of fresh air for jaded power metal fans pelted by too many cliches



  • I must say, this is one of those albums that makes writing for this site a pleasure and a privilege, and is the very definition of a pleasant surprise. Oddly enough, however, things didn't look so promising when I received a copy for review. What I first saw was a plastic sleeve containing a disc with color artwork and a glossy 8 1/2 x 11 press release with the album art, band photo and bio folded up in the sleeve. "Oh no," I though at first. "Another bunch of Stratovarius/Gamma Ray wannabes with a dodgy name, on a small, obscure label, no less." Surely this was something destined for delete bins worldwide.

    But upon finally, dutifully placing this in the player for the first time, I found myself completely unprepared for what I heard. No, not a sonic revolution the likes of which Hendrix initiated in the late '60s, but definitely not the anonymous cookie-cutter power metal I was expecting. With some vaguely eerie sound effects and a short crescendo, the rumbling, tuneful title track emerged from the speakers, sounding like HammerFall with more brains, more balls and less cheese (actually, I like cheese, but too much of it spoils a good album).

    Yes, this album contains many of the hallmarks of power metal, but also addresses that genre's most commonly cited shortcomings in many ways. Yes, there are groovy, teutonic riffs, anthemic sing-along choruses and valiantly melodic vocals and guitar solos. However, Crystal Eyes inject a much-needed dose of creativity into power metal, particularly with regard to song structures, throwing the listener a curveball just when they think they know for sure what's coming next.

    Much of the credit goes to guitarist and songwriter Mikael Dahl, who seems to have taken an approach to songwriting similar to that of Annihilator's Jeff Waters on this album, compiling a stupefying pile of cool riffs and putting them together jigsaw puzzle-like, resulting in some surprising and cool musical left turns. The guy clearly demonstrates a great reverence for classic metal guitar-craft, rattling off one tasty (if somewhat derivative) riff after another and complimenting them with an almost George Lynch-like elegance in his solos. Lyrics are, for the most part, not great, but new vocalist Nico Adamsen delivers them with passion, versatility and-like Dahl-total command of his craft.

    If anything, the crazy quilt of cool musical ideas in each song can actually be a bit much, but at the same time, it's a breath of fresh air for jaded power metal fans pelted by too many clichés. Check out "Battlefield," a pastiche of goofy Manowar-ish, He-Man metal spiced with hints of vintage Metallica and Ozzy (spot the brief "Bark At the Moon"-like riff that comes and quickly goes mid-song). "Wall of Stars" also uses this patchwork approach, ending with an acoustic guitar and vocal passage that sounds like it could have been the start of a whole other song. My personal favorite, however, would be the smart and inspiring power metal anthem "The Narrow Mind," though "The Quest Remains" also pleases with it's almost 70's rock-ish intro riff.

    I must say, while I was not familiar with Crystal Eyes prior to this release, I am glad I finally got to hear them. Dead City Dreaming is a most solid release, but somehow, I think they are capable of better. Whatever happens, I will look on with interest. For the over-saturation and formulaic writing tendencies that have ailed power metal of late, this is just what the doctor ordered.


    About this Writer:
    Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.

    Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
    5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
    4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
    3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
    3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
    2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
    1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
    0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

    Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

    Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

    The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.



    ALL FULL REVIEWS FOR: CRYSTAL EYES
    CD
    TITLE BAND
    DOR
    REVIEWER DATE
    Confessions Of The MakerCrystal Eyes
    2005
    Eric Compton7/25/2005
    Dead City DreamingCrystal Eyes
    2006
    Vinaya Saksena6/12/2008
    KillerCrystal Eyes
    2014
    Eric Compton8/28/2014
    Vengeance DescendingCrystal Eyes
    2003
    Eric Compton12/2/2003


    ALL SUMMARY REVIEWS FOR: CRYSTAL EYES

    No Summary reviews currently exist for them.


    ALL INTERVIEWS FOR: CRYSTAL EYES
    INTERVIEW BAND INTERVIEWER DATE
    Mikael DahlCrystal EyesEric Compton5/23/2014


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