Crystal Eyes – Vengeance Descending
Crystal Eyes – Vengeance Descending (2003)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
We rejoin Mikael Dahl and company in 2003 for the band’s third full-length, Vengeance Descending, which would prove to be the first turning point for the band’s sound, as well as its most focused early effort. I am unsure of some of the background goings-on in the band’s history, but there is a noticeable pivot in some of the music here, and the lyrics have changed a bit as well: simplified, perhaps, and certainly angrier. Actually, in comparison with the first couple of works, Vengeance Descending does indeed seem to be a snarling, temperamental creature.
While the retributive self-titled opener and likewise destructive “Highland Revenge” (boasting perhaps the band’s most iconic riff. Seriously, if I were a guitar player, this would be my “Crazy Train”) don’t sound far amiss from the songwriting ventures of World Of Black And Silver and In Silence They March, the Crystal Eyes’ recipe gets turned on its head a bit with the power ballad “Child Of Rock”. An amiable, perhaps even tender song, I would consider skipping this track after seeing its title and lyrics – had I not heard it first. All in all, this is a rather good tune that, while a bit silly, is actually a rather dynamic and pleasant listen, especially when we are keyed into a minor point of foreshadowing with an easter egg at the end: a scream from Daniel Heiman.
That’s right, Daniel Heiman’s work with Crystal Eyes began right here, and I get chills down my spine at the end of “Child Of Rock” in sheer anticipation. However, there are a couple of tracks to go until the roof is blown off. Thankfully, they are both great in their own way. “Mr. Failure”, while quite prosaic and critical in its nature of targeting what seems to be metal journalists (perish the thought!), is another of my very favorite Crystal Eyes songs for the simple reason that I can empathize only too closely with Dahl’s opinion of, *ahem*, certain media outlets. “Dream Chaser” launches into a more straightforward power metal track with a powerhouse chorus, a return to fictional lyricism, and another of Dahl’s finer singing outings. It’s almost a shame, after this first-rate cut, that he’s about to be overshadowed in such a monumental fashion.
“The Wizard’s Apprentice”. Has a ring to it, doesn’t it? As the words “The look of disbelief is still in your face!” come tearing out, I imagine the look on Dahl’s face as he realizes that Daniel Heiman has hijacked his band for the nefarious purpose of betraying his master and subjecting nebulous arcane powers to his own whims. I am then subsequently RUINED by Heiman’s two-part scream about thirty seconds later, and then repeatedly by one of the best choruses that Crystal Eyes has ever crafted. No question about it, this is my favorite Crystal Eyes song, and…oh hell with it, probably my favorite Daniel Heiman song (YES, I AM INCLUDING LOST HORIZON IN THIS STATEMENT). It’s a searing high point of absolute power metal bliss for the band’s early career, and a set up for a full album chock full of Daniel.
However, we’re still on the subject of Vengeance Descending, and there’s still four more entries on the album. While it’s a decent love song to metal, “Metal Crusade” is probably the only track that flies beneath the radar here. Otherwise, the disturbingly upbeat strains of “The Beast In Velvet” and the driving, late album favorite “Heart Of The Mountain” show this album as stronger at its tail end than In Silence They March. Once more, Dahl elects to close with a soft number in “Oblivion In The Visionary World”. Also as usual, it’s quite the tasteful, engaging ballad, with no time wasted on pretty-boy singing antics or needless piano interludes, but rather a somber, reflective lay that features a great deal of touching acoustic guitar work.
With a few more hard rock and classic metal influences and improved-but-similar production as compared to the first two albums, Vengeance Descending hints at the future of Crystal Eyes while concurrently executing an expert send-off of the 80’s Maiden’n’Priest’n’Helloween-inspired sound. To date, this remains my favorite album from the band overall because of the sheer strength of songs like “The Magician’s Apprentice”, “Highland Revenge”, and “Heart Of The Mountain”. An essential for fans of Mikael Dahl, Daniel Heiman, and Swedish power in general.
4.5 // 5