Crystal Eyes – World Of Black And Silver
Crystal Eyes – World Of Black And Silver (1999)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Looking at the band’s logo and the cover for World Of Black And Silver nowadays, you might not know what to expect (much like what may have been said about Nocturnal Rites’ debut) – is it speed metal, or perhaps even death?. However, let me let you in on a little secret: Crystal Eyes was playing power metal at the same time as, or earlier than Swedish heavy/power heroes HammerFall and Nocturnal Rites. While those two bands have earned their reputation as household names of European power metal, Crystal Eyes has never reached the same plane of popularity due to a number of factors: rougher production, the less professional and more coarse vocals of founder Mikael Dahl, and perhaps a bit more “down to earth” approach (although later albums, beginning with Vengeance Descending, would ultimately see them changing in all three of these respects).
Crystal Eyes was also a little slower to get rolling than its brothers-in-arms. This debut full-length, released in the spring of 1999 (for reference, very close to when Nocturnal Rites’ third album, The Sacred Talisman, came out), is the product of no less than 4 separate underground demo releases (Crystal Eyes, The Shadowed Path, The Final Sign, and The Dragon’s Lair) that were dropped between 1994 and 1998. At least half of the tracks on World Of Black And Silver were pulled from those demos, as well as a handful of original tracks.
Similar to its brethren, Crystal Eyes married the traditional, heretofore largely German-dominated brand of power/speed metal to classic Iron Maiden stylings, and included a new level of melodicism not often seen in Germany at the time. This hybrid Swedish style became a staple for all three bands mentioned above, and each pursued its own interpretation. Of the three, Crystal Eyes began with the most varied formula. One listen through World Of Black And Silver will uncover many of the bands’ favorite musical motives and tendencies which exist even to this day, but in no place does this ever become stale. Abrupt shifts to acoustic passages, blasts of solo guitar, and most importantly: leads, leads, leads galore. In no place in power metal that I can think of will you hear a greater quantity of commandingly melodic lead guitar work, as well as second lead guitar melodies behind the vocals in a chorus to create a striking polyphonic effect. Due to the rather primitive production (I quote Arno: “where was this thing recorded? Mordor?), the guitars certainly don’t come across as “heavy”, but this album should qualify as no less than a power metal lead guitar player’s dream.
And it is not just the guitar that oozes charm from every pore. I will admit that Mikael Dahl’s vocals are a bit of an acquired taste. Abrasive though he may be, the man does not struggle much with pitch, and delivers a raw energy not to be found in most polished, modern power metal. Additionally, with as much as the album is driven by guitar, the drumwork is wonderfully suited to punctuate and still the tunes. With the variance in songs on the album, World Of Black And Silver is a veritable feast of power metal drum and guitar patterns.
Individual songs are largely left to taste on this album. Although opener “Interstellar War” immediately jumps out due to its anthemic nature, the great acoustic break in “The Dragon’s Lair” and headlong flurry of “Extreme Paranoia” make them individual favorites of mine. In fact, with such strong late-album tunes as the determined “Glory Ride” and the almost out-of-place haunting creep of the closing title track, World Of Black And Silver is outstandingly balanced from front to back.
Amongst the band’s discography, World Of Black And Silver is unique in that it covers a 5+ year creative period from whence its songs are drawn. As a result, it is a bit more varied in some ways than the two albums which proceed from it. This is an absolute classic of Swedish (and indeed, greater European) power metal, and one that has never, and will never, meet with the kind of success that it so richly deserves.
4.25 // 5