The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Saturday, May 03, 2008

CD Review: Crimson Glory - S/T and Transcendence Reissues

Crimson Glory - S/T and Transcendence reissues
2008 Metal Mind Productions
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Lo, the tale of one Crimson Glory, the lore of one of America's brightest prog metal hopefuls in the eighties. Imagine having the rare opportunity to release your material on three powerhouse labels MCA, Atlantic and a then-fledgling Roadrunner. One can consider the fact that for each Crimson Glory album that was released in their original run featuring the screech-erific Midnight on the mike, they were a band on the verge of busting loose commercially. One can also take the more jaded position that Crimson Glory was so complex that none of the labels who briefly housed them knew how to market them properly. Save for 1988's Transcendence, which received a proper promotional push the first few months after its release, Crimson Glory was nevertheless doomed to relegation just below the mid-tier ranks of the original heavy metal pecking order. By the time Atlantic got their cash-minded mits on the band for 1991's Strange and Beautiful, the metal-friendly label had seen the opportunity to transform the Queensryche and Iron Maiden-laced prog wailers into what they'd hoped to be the logical Mindcrime successor.

In effect, Atlantic had committed Bandcrime in their edict to Crimson Glory to streamline and essentially downplay all that made them underground legends of the day, so much that even Midnight complied with the corporate manifesto and cut down most of his piercing falsetto shenanigans on Strange and Beautiful. It didn't take long for Crimson Glory to fall out of favor amongst their core legion and ultimately out of the scene altogether until the core triumvirate of Jeff Lords, Jon Drenning and Ben Jackson resurfaced with Savatage drummer Steve "Doc" Wacholz and the "War Machine," Wade Black (also of Lucian Black and Leash Law notoriety) for 1999's Astronomica.

In the interim between Strange and Beautiful and Astronomica, the central trio of Crimson Glory dabbled about in various projects. Lords and Drenning formed Erotic Liquid Culture with Michael Schenker, while Ben Jackson started the cult band Parish along with his on-occasion solo band The Ben Jackson Group. Midnight bowed out of the metal society altogether though be briefly resurfaced in 2001 with an acoustic EP called M and then again in 2005 for his Sakada album.

For many heavy metal fans, the lingering question about Crimson Glory, even though they're officially back on the touring circuit featuring the main allegiance with Wade Black and original drummer Dana Burnell returning to the fold is nonetheless, what the hell happened that Crimson Glory didn't make it big?

When turning back to their first two albums, Crimson Glory and Transcendence, one has to listen with a mind turned back to the years in which they were conceived. In 2008, both albums sound dated, particularly from the analog recording methods utilized back in the day. Certainly there's a primitive nature to these albums (more so the self-titled album than Transcendence) given all the gloss and embossing music production standards that have evolved today. If you really stop and think about songs like "Dragon Lady" and the Maiden-esque "Azrael" from Crimson Glory or "Lady of Winter" and "Lonely" (Crimson Glory's only true shot at crossing over into the mainstream) from Transcendence, to relegate these songs from scratch into a digital capture, they would sound appropriately thunderous as well as crisp and robust.

Still, put yourself if you weren't there originally, into the bedrooms of a typical teenaged headbanger from 1986 and holy hell, what mind-melding stuff this was! Listen to Ben Jackson and Jon Drenning shred and scorch on "Dragon Lady," "Mayday," "Heart of Steel" and "Valhalla" from their self-titled album, while Midnight peels the paint of the walls with his puncturing squeals. Not so easy on the ears these days, admittedly, but goddamn what an impressive display it was back then! Seriously, the guy could've stood toe-to-toe with King Diamond at one point. Sad that time robs and ushers in truths that aren't so apparent when you're in the moment years earlier. To think that "Queen of the Masquerade" sounded so sinister and yet sophisticated back in 1986 only to come off a bit lackadaisical two decades later is a bit heartbreaking.

That minor quibble aside, listening to Crimson Glory these days is a step back, yes, but it's a fun, nostalgic trip down Metal Memory Lane, and for this writer's journey, the big payoff comes on the melancholic acoustic dirge "Lost Reflection" that is the largest demonstration of Crimson Glory's progressive artistry that only had so much opportunity to nurture itself given the bidding war that would come their way in 1988 with Transcendence.

What Crimson Glory had already been sculpting using The Warning and Rage For Order era Queensryche and NWOBHM (in particular Paul Dianno period Maiden) in 1986 was existential again on Transcendence, yet at this point Crimson Glory had come far in quick succession, on par with Armored Saint and Lizzy Borden at this point, though Queensryche was already further along the path en route to their masterpiece Operation Mindcrime and their commercial juggernaut Empire.

Some might say that Crimson Glory was behind the metal queue just a hair by the time Transcendence came out, but reflective of the spectacular Heavy Metal (the magazine) artwork on the cover of this album, Crimson Glory had elevated their own craft in response. While still adhering to the Queensryche-Maiden prog-power metal script ("Lady of Winter" an example of the former, "Red Sharks" of the latter), the gradual morphing of Crimson Glory in 1988 found more elaborate songwriting, superior shredding and guitar solos from Drenning and Jackson, terrific roll-happy drumming from Dana Burnell and even Midnight by this time had managed to incorporate a little Rob Halford into his scale-driven projection.

As Transcendence drives rhythmically on striking mini epics like "Red Sharks," "Masque of the Red Death" (listen closely for a note sequence hoisted straight out of Maiden's "Powerslave," the song), "In Dark Places" and "Eternal World," one of Crimson Glory's biggest assets on this album comes from a tight-knit purification effect. They plug in the few gaps from Crimson Glory with deeper fills and sometimes astonishing progression, the finale of "Eternal World" being one example, the cross-cultural merge of Zeppelin and Medieval Times on the title track in a gut-wrenching, anticipatory blend of acoustic and electric wizardry that carries the mysterious track without the assistance of a beat.

In some ways, "Lonely" is the isolated castaway song from Transcendence, which is perhaps why it was selected as a single. Cousin to Queensryche's "The Lady Wore Black," Crimson Glory builds "Lonely" with a forlorn intro that builds into a chugging rock jam complete with straightforward (for him anyway) vocals from Midnight that dives headfirst into rousing, pseudo-uptempo choruses.

Most assuredly "Lonely" is the reason Atlantic Records hoisted Crimson Glory because with a better push from MCA, it would've scored huge for the band. As worthy as anyone else to be a Metal Mania selection, "Lonely" is a shrewdly-written tune with memorable lyrics, and as it spills into the wounds-cut-deep disaffection of "Burning Bridges," (another song bearing conflicting choruses that border on bright) one can feel the struggle already existing in Crimson Glory, the decision on whether to be prog metal purists or to carry the tuneful magic of "Lonely" into the future.

Naturally Atlantic was banking on Crimson Glory following suit on the path of "Lonely" by the time Strange and Beautiful arrived. Bad enough Crimson Glory had such pressure to conform when they were already seeking a different path, but as the metal scene in North America was on its last hinges in 1991, Crimson Glory nary stood a chance whether they released another Transcendence or if they abandoned ship altogether and became the next Slaughter or Firehouse. Of course, Crimson Glory's rhythm section is far too music-oriented to just dumb themselves down, although Ben Jackson's All Over You is about as close to straight-laced rock as we've yet heard from this ensemble.

If there's one feather in Crimson Glory's cap after all these years with a handful of albums and an almost-hit-big legacy, it's the fact that enough people from the day remember them and even bigger, the younger generation has become aware of these guys. There's excitability in the air from progheads and metal purists that Crimson Glory and Transcendence are back in our midst. Make no mistake about it; Midnight's vocals can be off-putting to the untrained or the conventional ear, and they sometimes antiquate Crimson Glory's material, but beyond the over-the-top high octaves, he can be a wonderful, classically-trained vocalist and as the band responds accordingly, this is when the band is at their best. They might not've reached the same heights as Queensryche, but nobody can say Crimson Glory didn't give it their best shot.

Rating: ****


David Amulet said...

I never got into CG despite my prog leanings, mostly b/c of the voice.

It's a bit unfair to say that his voice only irks those with an "untrained or the conventional ear;" that's the kind of elitist side-swipe that gives reviewers a bad name. I don't claim any "training," whatever that means, but I enjoy many singers probably considered unconventional.

Your post does, however, have me interested in going back and giving these guys another listen.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

perhaps you're right about the "untrained" ear thing, though snobbery is certainly not my intention whatsoever; bad choice of words, I'll go ahead and stake upon myself

David Amulet said...

I can guess that it wasn't your intent. You rarely write with snooty arrogance, so why would you start now?

BTW, I love this album cover.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I try to never be arrogant if possible; I've caught myself on many occasion and rephrased; I believe in this instance I meant unaccustomed when I wrote untrained, dunno... I'm no better than anyone else, trust me on that.

pcsolotto said...

Nice blog. Thats all.

viagra online said...

Maybe one of the most underrated band I've ever heard in my whole life! Crimson Glory rules!

Anonymous said...

[url=]эмулятор игрового автомата покер бесплатно[/url] онлайн покер играть без ставок это , [url=]рейтинг казино игровые автоматы[/url] crazy fruits flash игровой автомат , [url=]игровые автоматы сейфы valberg[/url] игровой автомат баскетбол советский , [url=]игровые автоматы три семёрки[/url] игровые автоматы играть бесплатно онлайн slot , [url=]игровые автоматы онлайн бесплатно играть без регистрации сейчас[/url] онлайн покер калькулятор юникредит

Anonymous said...

gaminatorslots игровые автоматы [url=]скачать игровые автоматы адмиралы бесплатно[/url] краснодарский край игровые автоматы , [url=]выигрыш в онлайн казино[/url] игровые автоматы бесплатно крышки , [url=]игровые автоматы нового поколения бланк[/url] игровые автоматы вокруг света , [url=]игровые автоматы морской бой бесплатно[/url] игровые автоматы book of ra бесплатно

Anonymous said...

[url=]игровые автоматы играть бесплатно онлайн свиньи[/url] игровые автоматы бесплатно island2 , [url=]интернет казино на реальные деньги без первоначальных взносов[/url] онлайн покер холдем 1 на 1 скачать , [url=]игровые автоматы играть онлайн vlc[/url] игровые автоматы бесплатно играть сейчас ферма , [url=]игровые автоматы играть сейчас на деньги[/url] игровой автомат уловки шпиона скачать , [url=]онлайн покер рулетка[/url] игровые автоматы вулкан играть прямо сейчас

Anonymous said...

игровые автоматы скачки онлайн онлайн казино европа , интернет казино с минимальными ставками портал азартных игр , игровые автоматы слоты играть онлайн бесплатно игровые автоматы российские , бауманская игровые автоматы игровые автоматы играть онлайн бесплатно обезьянки , онлайн покер c оплачиваем яндекса 2012 онлайн казино украъни

Anonymous said...

[url=]игровые автоматы онлайн сумасшедшие фрукты[/url] эмулятор игрового автомата novomatic , [url=]интернет игровые автоматы играть бесплатно[/url] игровые автоматы онлайн бесплатно слоты гейминатор , [url=]игровые автоматы помидоры играть бесплатно 777[/url] игровые автоматы онлайн бесплатно крези , [url=]интернет казино онлайн без регистрации[/url] где находятся игровые автоматы , [url=]азартные игры бесплатно и без регистрации через торрент[/url] игровые автоматы старые онлайн бесплатно

Anonymous said...

азартные игры на раздиванивание женщины [url=]онлайн казино лас вегаса обзор[/url] азартные игры онлайн бесплатно играть новые игры , [url=]игровые автоматы ссср играть[/url] новый покер онлайн , [url=]казино онлайн ставка 1 копейка[/url] игровые автоматы сокровища ацтеков это , [url=]бесплатные игровые автоматы crazy monkey[/url] игровые автоматы онлайн бесплатно вулкан

Anonymous said...

игровые автоматы на интерес играть [url=]игровые автоматы бесплатно alcatraz[/url] онлайн казино украины , [url=]игровые автоматы super jump играть на фишки[/url] покер онлайн для symbian , [url=]онлайн казино остров сокровищ hd[/url] адмирал игровые автоматы бесплатно , [url=]игровые автоматы за деньги это[/url] игровые автоматы гаминатор играть бесплатно онлайн

Anonymous said...

[url=]выставка игровых автоматов[/url] онлайн казино фараон lc-100 , [url=]вулкан игровые автоматы бесплатно[/url] азартные игры для детей , [url=]игры онлайн бесплатно карты покер[/url] онлайн покер поддержка zip , [url=]игровые автоматы лошадки для девочек[/url] игровые автоматы сейфы играть бесплатно , [url=]онлайн казино на рубли[/url] игровые автоматы шарки

Anonymous said...

игровые автоматы скачать бесплатно и без регистрации смс [url=]интернет казино 888 покер[/url] 15 копеек игровые автоматы , [url=]игровые автоматы бесплатно онлайн без смс и регистрации[/url] изъятие игровых автоматов , [url=]игровые автоматы онлайн лягушки[/url] игровые автоматы без регистрации вулкан бесплатно , [url=]онлайн покер на деньги онлайн[/url] игровые автоматы чемпион онлайн бесплатно , [url=]интернет казино 888 покер[/url]

Anonymous said...

азартные игры с бонусом игровые автоматы онлайн шампанское спринты пирамида игровые автоматы keks бесплатно онлайн скачать , эмулятор игрового автомата клубнички игровые автоматы resident онлайн бесплатно , игровые автоматы играть бесплатно онлайн 100 процентов отдачи онлайн казино бонус при регистрации и смс , азартные игры это определение игровые автоматы медведь ворует онлайн , игровые автоматы кекс играть бесплатно

Anonymous said...

[url=]игровые автоматы новоматик[/url]
[url=]игровые автоматы[/url]

Многие согласятся с тем, что человек – существо, которому как воздух необходимы острые ощущения и патовые ситуации. И для таких людей азартные игры становятся как раз таким источником гормона азарта в организме. Как раз почему игровые автоматы пользуются такой большой популярностью у людей разных сословий, образований и материального достатка. Один идет за азартом в казино, другому хватает услуг обычного уличного игрового аппарата, а те, у кого нет огромного количества свободного времени отдают свою любовь онлайн-играм. Сегодня для того, чтобы окунуться в любимую игру совсем не нужно ехать в игровой клуб на дальнем конце столицы и тратить собственные кровно заработанные денежные знаки. Этот сайт работает для тех, кто ценит время и средства, но все так же жаждет неповторимых ощущений от игры. У нас вы сможете отыскать наиболее известные на сегодняшний день онлайн-игры, от наивных и «детских» до довольно серьезных партий, например, в покер. Добро пожаловать в мир онлайн-игр!

[url=]игровые автоматы скачать[/url]

Anonymous said...

онлайн казино которое платит [url=]интернет казино честные[/url] интернет казино золотая рыбка 3 желания , [url=]казино принцес покер турнири[/url] интернет казино со ставками от 0 01$ , [url=]покер турнири в казино лондон[/url] где казино в москве , [url=]казино 3 туза[/url] интернет казино шашки алиса в стране чудес

Anonymous said...

казино на гоа [url=]интернет казино игровые автоматы без регистрации 777[/url] бездепозитный бонус казино 2011 , [url=]рейтинг честных интернет казино[/url] интернет казино рулетка играть бесплатно 777 без регистрации , [url=]интернет казино рулетка онлайн kz[/url] казино покер игри , [url=]казино корона покерный турнир[/url] казино 777 семерки , [url=]интернет казино игровые автоматы бесплатно 2012 через торрент[/url]