It's funny that Crystal Logic has become the most popular album among Manilla Road devotees, when it's really a one-off in the band's discography. After three albums of the band struggling to find their sound (album number two, Mark Of The Beast was shelved for over twenty years, rather unfairly in my opinion) the band took the first real steps towards the epic metal niche they've occupied ever since. However, Crystal Logic has a sloppy, knockabout quality that's absent from their other releases. I suppose it still sounds like the same band who would go on to release Open The Gates and The Deluge (though it's actually not, drummer Rick Fisher making his last appearance here), but imagine them playing messy heavy metal that comes straight from the heart. And that's the magic behind Crystal Logic. Even though everything about the record is a bit amateurish, right down to the cover art (that is the most bizarrely skewed perspective I have ever seen) the songs have so much charm that any fan of metal will be grinning like a fool from the opening chords of Necropolis to the last dying notes of Dreams Of Eschaton.
After a weird ambient intro, that nods to the bizarre experimentation that took place just two years previous on Mark Of The Beast, Necropolis kicks in, and we, the listeners are treated to forty minutes of absolutely top-flight metal (well, Feeling Free Again is a bit iffy, but it's short). Mark Shelton proves once again why he is one of metal's riff gods, creating songs that are almost perfectly written. Interestingly enough, one of the highlight tracks here was originally left off the album. The gonzoid Flaming Metal Systems was sent out to record companies to demonstrate the band's new sound, and made an appearance on the U.S Metal Vol.III compilation. However, it didn't make it onto the album. Although it's technically a bonus track it's stuck right in the meat of the album, but it works. It fits in perfectly with the speedier, catchier first side, and remains a live staple to this day, the band often using it to open their shows.
The second side is a heavier, doomier affair, a thick Black Sabbath influence permeating the songs. They still have just as much charm though. Veils Of Negative Existence has an absolute belter of a chorus, being one of the more sing-along moments in the Manilla Road catalogue. Speaking of singing, this is by far Mark Shelton's finest vocal performance. Maybe it's because the music is a little more vocal-oriented than normal, but he really does sound great here. Unfortunately, his voice would never be quite right after this record.
Every Manilla Road album needs an epic, and Crystal Logic is no exception. Dreams Of Eschaton (the title being another nod to Mark Of The Beast, as the record was intended to go by that moniker) is a 10-minute behemoth, starting of as a rare moment of tranquillity before bursting into the heaviest track the band had done to date. It's the perfect closer, and one of the true anthems of the Manilla Road canon.
As the chilling laughter that closes the record dies down, we're immediately left wanting more. And the band have far more to offer us, having produced 14 albums. All of them have some form of merit or other, but even after 25 years, Crystal Logic is the defining album of the real gods of true metal. Up the hammers!