Greetings and salutations, power metal lovers of the world! We’re back with the Power Metal of the Month pick for May! This went right up to the wire, with the top spot changing no less than three times in the last few days. But as push came to shove I had to go with the tunes that made me yearn for the wild, cocksure swagger of my youth, and no album brought that home better than the latest from Greece’s speed/power titans Crystal Tears, whose fourth full length Decadence Deluxe jubilantly embraces the set of 80s hard rock, never taking itself too seriously even as it throttles ahead with power and aggression.
Keeping the same lineup intact from 2014’s Hellmade, Crystal Tears hit on some of the same fast melodic territory mined by classic bands like Helloween or more recently Tad Morose but boost it with some real grit and spit in the vocals, courtesy of Søren Ademsen. “Evil vs. Evil” seemingly sets the template, with modern muted riffs, an anthemic chorus, and some tight blazing solos that have just the right amount of overboard theatrics without going into full blown showoff mode. But then “Blindead” pulls a switch, instead focusing on a slower, more brutal attack that’s offset by a chorus that runs alongside sweet arpeggios and “oohs” and “ahhhs” that mix with some serious chugging.
In fact the joy of Decadence Deluxe is in how much variety there is to be found in the songs, and how much the track truly swaggers with that classic hard rock vibe. “Heart of a Lion” would have been a huge hit circa ’87, and when it came on in the car I was surprised how quickly I reverted to that 13 year old kid, singing along and snapping my head on the commute home. Everything sounds great, too: there’s a great snap and clash to founding member Chrisafis Tantanozis’s drums, and the guitars sit high and proud in the mix. The songs are compact and blast by with maximum impact. “Where Angels Die” has a moment that recalls prime Dio, while “Death Haunts Forever,” “Chaos Thy Name” and “Tears for the Dead” rage and sear as fast as anything you’ll find from modern melodic death metal bands. Hell, you even get live covers of Alice Cooper and Queen. What I’m saying is Crystal Tears embrace a sense of muscle and speed as well as finesse and the package they put together in Decadence Deluxe is a ridiculous amount of fun even as you’re rocking your head and pounding your hands. Since hearing it I haven’t gotten enough, and here’s hoping it finds its way to your ears sooner rather than later.
May Quick Hits…
Eufory – Higher and Higher: For a while this was the front-runner for the top spot. Taking a more majestic and traditional power route, the Slovakian unit’s second album hits all the right notes, with more focused songwriting and a great sense of building tension and ambience with their keyboards. There’s nothing overly bombastic here, just some sincere and really well executed music that inspires and remains fluid and modern throughout.
Lords of Black – Icons of the New Days: Lords of Black return with their third album, and the galloping riffs and tradtional-bordering-on-Symphony X prog that marked their earlier work is all here. With the increased profile of vocalist Ronnie Romero (he took on the vocal role for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow gigs) I don’t know what I was expecting with a new record, but nothing’s much changed, and that’s a good thing.
Grailknights – Knightfall: I won’t begin to pretend this is my kind of thing, but there’s a charm to the band’s imagination and a solid “thunk” to their sound that I can get into. For two good extremes of their sound check out “Grailskull Asylum” with some crazy growled vocals and “Book of a Hero” which nails that folktale somber tone that never fails to stir your bones. Don’t be afraid to try it…
Airborn – Lizard Secrets: Plagued with a terrible drum sound, Lizard Secrets feels pretty uninspired, relying on tired harmonies that can be found on hundreds of other and better records. Which is too bad, because I was looking forward to a concept album about lizards and their secrets, but more importantly going back and checking out the band’s earlier output there’s a rough and tumble-ness to it I could definitely get into. This one falls a bit flat, though.
Until next time, keep it heavy, and let us know what we should be looking out for in June!