Crystallion - A Dark Enchanted Crystal Night
STF Records
Power Metal
9 songs (58'51)
Release year: 2006
Reviewed by Crims
Surprise of the month

A Dark Enchanted Crystal Night is the first full-length from Germany’s Crystallion. Contrasted to last week’s Steel Attack review, from a style perspective, Crystallion play happy sounding Power Metal (Flower Metal to some) with melodic hooks, uplifting lyrics, and vocal driven songs. The result is perhaps better than one might expect but certain aspects of the music hold the band back.

Of note more than anything is the length of the songs found on this release. Aside from the useless intro the shortest song is 5:16 in length with the average length being closer to 7:00 minutes for the rest. Other bands of this style of tried this before, in particular Highland Glory and Phoenix Rizing (which turned into Highland Glory with a similar line-up), among others and quite frankly most bands in this style are horrendously wussy, devoid of any riffage as the guitars are over-powered by ultra-happy fantasy lyrics, and simplistic melodic hooks. Thankfully Crystallion don’t fall into this trap for a few reasons. The main reason is the guitar tone, which is heavier than one might expect (the overall sound is still very clean) and while most of the riffs serve to accentuate the vocal melodies and phrasing there are some decent neo-classical tinged riffs along with HammerFall (Renegade era) styled fast and mid-paced riffs on occasion. The riffs are helped by ripping solos which also have a neo-classical tinge. Keyboards also play an important part in the band providing the typical extra layer of background melody, but occasionally, as found in the beginning of Guardians Of Sunrise, neo-classical melodies are used. Also, there are number of keyboard solos which inter-mingle very nicely with the guitar solos (most songs feature lead trade-offs). These guitar/keyboard lead trade-offs are a highlight of the CD and don’t sound like second rate knock offs of similar things done in Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, or Children Of Bodom; they in fact stand on their own and are exceptional on every song.

The vocals are unfortunately something that holds the band back. I have to admit that singer Thomas Strubler has a unique voice that has a folk sensibility to it (though in the contrast the music doesn’t). His problem is a limited range. The typical delivery of Strubler is in the mid-range and rarely do we hear anything different. What should be soaring and epic deliveries on choruses we instead get what some might consider anti-climatic deliveries. To his credit Strubler stays within his range for most of the CD because when he does try something out of it the result is even worse. Now, with that being said the phrasing, melody, and the actual voice of Strubler save practically every chorus with only a few verses falling completely flat. We are given a brief glimpse as to what the band may sound like with a more dynamic singer as the closer, The Final Revelation, features a guest singer. The guest singer has a decidedly operatic and epic delivery with a dynamic range that changes with the mood of the music to enhance the songs (unfortunately I was unable to confirm who the singer was, but he sounded familiar). Perhaps coincidently, The Final Revelation is the best song on the CD and is an excellent song for more reasons than just the vocals. This song actually has a strong Avantasia vibe to it and than can mean nothing but good things for most Power Metal fans.

What sets this band apart and helps them, in my opinion, rise above the many middle-of-the-road bands, is some very good song writing. As mentioned the songs are quite long by Power Metal standards and without any exterior influences from other Metal styles or genres it can be difficult for a band to consistently remain interesting. Crystallion rarely disappoint in this regard as the songs all have an epic feeling to them without treading in Progressive Metal territory. To give a few examples of rather simple in nature, but tougher to execute properly, song writing, many choruses have refrains near the end of the songs which are played over different tempos and melodies. Also, there is a lot of vocal driven mid-paced work that serves to build-up nicely to the faster moments of the songs and also set up many of the hooks and melodies that are heard in any given song. Even Guardians Of Sunrise, which starts out as a generic double bass opener, aspires to something else by the end of the song (with an excellent bass guitar centered break before 2 ripping solos and an unexpected neo-classical guitar/keyboard melody harmonization). As I listened to the music more the style of song writing reminded me of Edguy (when they write longer songs) and Avantasia in that there are more than typical tempo changes (for a Power Metal band) with almost constant vocal delivery that remains consistently melodic and seamlessly remains catchy despite tempo and phrasing changes. Musically Edguy is (was) more riff oriented with the incomparable Tobias Sammet on vocals but the same song writing mechanics that have made Edguy such a mainstay in the Power Metal genre can be heard here on songs such as Visions and The Final Revelation.

The lyrics are done in a fantasy setting and to their credit, the tone of the music changes in conjunction with the tone of the lyrics quite nicely. This CD may even be a concept but as I don’t have access to the lyrical booklet I can’t say with any certainty, but there certainly seems to be some kind of fantasy based quest that sees a hero progress through various stages of his/her journey.

With repeated listens I was hooked to many of the CD’s best songs. I’m a little torn on the whole vocal aspect because on one hand you have a unique sounding vocalist who delivers a memorable and hook inducing vocal performance despite the range issues, and on the other hand The Final Revelation gave us an interesting look into how the music could further evolve with someone who can sing proficiently in multiple ranges and styles. Either way the music really takes center stage as I was continually impressed by how interesting the songs each remained despite the lengths. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the length of these songs I was listening to as they felt like 4 to 5 minute songs with a lot changes thrown in. Some of you may not like this. It may not be riff-oriented enough and may be too vocal driven and melody driven (as opposed to rhythm driven) for others. I on the other hand really enjoyed this and found the best songs to be instant additions to a regular Power Metal play list. Sure, not all the songs were like this (especially Burning Bridges which is so happy-sounding it is borderline goofy), but when all is said and done this is a very impressive debut that despite being firmly in a inherently generic genre that rarely breaks the verse, chorus, verse, chorus song writing mentality this was something that tried and successfully broke that. One must keep in mind the individual aspects of the music are still generic in their execution, but the sum of the entire CD points to a direction whose epic lengths and memorable melodies make it rise above, if ever so slightly.

Killing Songs :
Guardians Of The Sunrise, Visions, Crystal Clear, The Final Revelation
Crims quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Crystallion that we have reviewed:
Crystallion - Hattin reviewed by Pete and quoted 85 / 100
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