Review Summary: Crystal Tears is a radical change in comparison with their previous releases. It converges on a more introspective, elegiac direction. But it is probably one of On Thorns I Lay’s best albums, offering a fine collection of atmospheric songs.
Although generally classified as an atmospheric gothic metal band, On Thorns I Lay has become known for its change from early, brutal death-metal (under their previous names Paralysis and Phlebotomy) to softer, atmospheric rock. Crystal Tears is no exception to this evolution. However, this specific album can be regarded as an important turning point in their career as this is a drastic change in their aesthetic orientation. Despite previous stylistic changes, the band was accustomed to navigating the waters of extreme metal until this album. Crystal Tears radically turns toward a softer and more atmospheric direction. In consequence, the listener familiar with their previous releases should expect a more accessible record without any grunt vocals, blast beats, or fast, heavily amplified guitar riffs.
This change may disappoint those who enjoyed the oceanic doom-death sound of their previous release, Orama. They have converged on a more introspective, elegiac form of gothic metal. For those who can put stylistic issues aside, the album offers a fine collection of atmospheric and meditative songs woven through with romantic viola, organ, and piano parts. The metal guitar riffs are still there, but they are lower in the mix. The overall mood is melancholic, introspective, and meditative.
The core structures of the songs are well crafted, and they could have easily stood alone as rock songs without any decorative elements. But the songs reach sublimity by the addition of arrangements for viola and keys by the sisters Elena and Ionna Doroftei. These arrangements add a deeper touch of melancholy to the songs. The dialogue between Marcela Buruiana’s ethereal vocals and Stefanos Kintzoglou’s whispered vocals is also one of the strong points of this record. It reinforces the overall meditative atmosphere of Crystal Tears. Songs such as “Eden,” “Crystal Tears,” “Enigma,” “My Angel” and the meditative monologue “Midnight Falling” are among the best the band has to offer in this particular stylistic orientation. This album is worth buying just for these songs, which represent the quintessence of the art of the band in this genre.
In conclusion, Crystal Tears can be regarded as one of On Thorns I Lay’s best albums along with Orama. The album is not perfect, though. Some songs are stronger than others, but they are all worth the attention of anyone interested in the genre. Although it has its own specific mood and identity, the album shares many characteristics with Theatre of Tragedy’s Aegis. This album is to be recommended to those who would enjoy Aegis.