Crystal Eyes – Killer

July 18, 2014 in Artist Rewind, Reviews by blackwindmetal

Crystal Eyes - KillerCrystal Eyes – Killer (2014)

Reviewed by Daniel Millard

What exactly were we supposed to think about Killer in the months preceding its release, exactly? It’s been six years since a new Crystal Eyes album saw the light of day, a full eleven years since Mikael Dahl last handled full time vocal duties, and what about that artwork? Numerous worrying factors fogged my brain and caused me concern that ultimately proved to be completely inconsequential. After all, what’s the primary reason that Dahl and company have become one of my very favorite acts in metal? Consistency, before all else, tracing back to the band’s beginnings in the early 90’s, can now unquestionably be listed as one of Crystal Eyes’ chief assets.

Yessirree, the Swedish lads are right back to their game with Killer, an album that, despite its title and cover, sports a great deal of Dahl’s signature lyricism, wandering themes of storytelling, and naturally, a rising tide of melody.  Of course, the only way I could legitimately call this a “comeback album” would be due to the six year hiatus, as Chained was of indubitable quality, but I might do so nonetheless. To experience a new Crystal Eyes release as a devoted follower is something special indeed.

Single “Hail The Fallen” was an extremely canny choice. While I often avoid early listens to new material, I was unable to resist the lure, and it totally sold me (and, I imagine, a lot of other fans of the band’s early material). A hooky, stomping chorus combined with Dahl completely cutting loose on vocals has been the stuff of dreams since Vengeance Descending, really. The production quality of Crystal Eyes’ releases has improved vastly since the early 00’s, and Dahl has (presumably) had plenty of time to rehearse since then as well. He doesn’t have the training that Daniel Heiman and Søren Nico Adamsen possessed, but I’ve always thought the he brought a significant amount of his own charm to the table when singing. Now, imagine the potency of his delivery on In Silence They March and Vengeance Descending, but add more clarity and confidence than ever before.

Killer is a familiar sort of album, largely picking up right where Chained left off, but occasionally injecting a bit more of the old power metal kick to the mix (see “Solar Mariner” and “The Lords Of Chaos”). Strangely, this gives me the feeling that you could almost place this album straight after Vengeance Descending as a sort of natural progression – as if the band’s trio of albums with other singers never even happened – it’s that dependable. It’s got tunes of war and valor (“Warrior”), questing songs of mystery and discovery (“Forgotten Realms”), hard rockers (“Spotlight Rebel”), power metal anthems, and even one of Dahl’s infectious slow-burners (“Dreamers On Trial”), making it a very complete and assorted experience. It also boasts an exceptional, head-banging grinder of a closer in “Dogs On Holy Ground”, another serious contender.

The best slander I can level against this album is that it doesn’t have quite the sheer quantity of stupid-hooky melodies that made Vengeance Descending and In Silence They March clear favorites of mine – though selections from Killer like “Solar Mariner”, “Forgotten Realms”, “Hail The Fallen”, and the title track decidedly bear that power. The sheer excellence of Killer will, I hope, put Crystal Eyes squarely on the radar for a new decade and a new generation of fans. Long has this band deserved far more press than it has received, and there’s no better place to start than the fresh, uncompromising composition that the band has offered us in 2014.

4.0 // 5