Crystal Eyes – Dead City Dreaming
Crystal Eyes – Dead City Dreaming (2006)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
After the unfair disappointment that seemed to greet Confessions Of The Maker from certain metalheads (something that I’ll probably always hold against the community), Crystal Eyes released Dead City Dreaming in a somewhat more quiet fashion about a year and a half later. This album sees Jonathan Nyberg retiring from the band full-time (though he does contribute a guest solo on “The Narrow Mind”) to leave sole guitar duties to founder Mikael Dahl, as well as a rotation in vocalists from Daniel Heiman to then-budding singer Søren Nico Adamsen, who brought a style that I find to actually be similar to Heiman’s lower delivery at times, though without the same degree of high-end pyrotechnics.
The result of these lineup changes (especially losing Nyberg) was to further pronounce the hard rock sound that had been incubating during Vengeance Descending and received its baptism on Confessions Of The Maker. In a strange way this progression seems almost natural, at least to me, in that Dahl’s vocal melodies have always been extremely accessible, and the catchy chorus work was a focus of the band since the very beginning. Hence, while I do mourn for the passing of the band’s excellent power metal scorchers, there is more than enough steady headbanging going on throughout Dead City Dreaming that I only really notice its absence once the album has passed me by.
Simpler though it may be, I will consistently thank Dahl for his good sense in not descending into realms of sadly comedic or absurd “power rock”, as a number of his European band-mastermind colleagues did (Tobi, Twilightning, I’m looking at you). The music here, while stripped down and slowed down a bit, is very clearly descended from its classic Swedish power metal days (and the further ancestry that that implies), and even reminds me a bit of later genre entry Saint Deamon. New singer Adamsen is an ideal fit for this handily written, easily-accessed new route, and in hindsight, I don’t think I could have recommended a better vocalist to help Dahl explore it.
However easy it may be to grasp, I think that the closer that power metal comes to hard rock, the easier it is for musicians to repeat themselves or for songs to begin running in well-worn tracks – and Crystal Eyes is no exception to this rule. Despite this, there is still a good diffusion of variety on Dead City Dreaming, ranging from a foray into Lovecraftian themes (the opening title track), well-tread topics of blood, thunder, and metal (“Battlefield”, “The Halls Of Valhalla”), and on to some of Dahl’s signature lyricism revolving around wonder and discovery (“Wall Of Stars”, “The Quest Remains”). My personal favorites from this album include the easy-going and immediately gripping “The Narrow Mind”, which features some of the best guitar work, a quicker tempo, and one of the band’s best choruses; as well as the equally fast, rollicking story of the “Dawn Dancer” (*Sigh*, I still like this band best when it follows the power metal track, so sue me). With the potency of “Roads Of Loneliness”, “Dawn Dancer”, and the swinging glory-call of closer “The Halls Of Valhalla”, this might actually be the first Crystal Eyes album that is bottom-heavy. It’s also the first album that doesn’t feature a soft Dahl-ballad at the end, though Dahl does weigh in with his own rougher vocals on the last track.
While it’s still got plenty of piss and vinegar, Dead City Dreaming is probably the weakest Crystal Eyes album up to this point, due in general to its increasing movement towards a more basic, more accessible brand of heavy metal. I cannot say that I entirely blame Mikael Dahl and company, however, based upon the very cult-classic status of the band’s first three albums or so. Regardless of anything else, Dead City Dreaming is a quality entry of extremely likable heavy/power metal that’s very easy to get into and sing along with.
3.75 // 5