Review Summary: How rotten would you prefer your cheese?On July 8, 2009, John Patrick McDonald passed away at the age of 47 due to kidney and liver failure.
The 80’s weren’t exactly a consistent decade for music, especially heavy metal. Thanks to the glam/hair scene surging in popularity with acts such as Poison, White Lion and Cinderella, looks came before substance everywhere you turned. Yet for all the mediocrity, there were some great works to be found; and not all of them were clearly known. Floridian metal band Crimson Glory (initially Beowulf) saw birth in 1982 as a slightly progressive power metal act. Over the course of their first nine years together, the group released three studio albums, with their first two, Crimson Glory
and the celebrated Transcendence
showing the band in strong light. Similar to modern rockers Slipknot and Mushroomhead, Crimson Glory wore masks during shows and for photo shoots, but ultimately abandoned this approach after the supporting tour for Transcendence
. Not long after Crimson Glory’s third album, Strange and Beautiful
came out, vocalist John Patrick “Midnight” McDonald departed and until 1999, the group hadn’t released any new material.
, Crimson Glory’s fourth (and presently their last) studio album, this time with Wade Black providing lead vocal work. Naturally the key problem fans have had with this change is a noticeably different voice fronting the group, but this shift is the least of what listeners should be concerned about.
As the album name implies, this is a science fiction-themed release which leads to the first of its abundantly problematic issues: insipidness. The themes and ensuing music from this album can begin to sound like what Roland Emmerich would deliver if involved in a heavy metal act. Take the opening lyrics on “Lucifer’s Hammer” for example:
”I am what you need
I am everything
I will destroy your dreams
I will make you bleed
I am genocide
I destroy all life
Slam into your side
Hell and earth collide”
You can expect to find plenty of this imitative material throughout the ten provided tracks. Granted, well-utilized originality hasn’t always been a strength in power metal, especially when space-centered. However, if the themes meant to carry the music out have the simplicity of a mid-era Judas Priest album then it’s tough to be forgiving.
Normally this wouldn’t be too bad if the music itself at least offered more than the contextual depth at-hand. Yet like Stephanie Meyer’s insultingly popular Twilight
series, this album can’t fully deliver even on a simple level. When you have a bloated, three-minute instrumental starting the album off, you know that things are going to be shaky. And, unfortunately, the only consistency to find here is the almost completely persistent mediocrity. By the time actual opening track “War of the Worlds” kicks in with constant blast sounds attempting to build intensity, it becomes all the more prevalent just how dismally uninspired the vast majority of this album is.
But just how does the album sound this weak you ask? First off there’s vocalist Wade Black, who seems most determined to bring high, maintained vocals throughout the somewhat meaty runtime as much, if not more than King Diamond on “Welcome Home.” Black isn’t necessarily a weak vocalist per se; he’s actually quite good and shows much similarity to Tim Owens. Unfortunately, his talents feel mishandled and, as a result, wasted. Instrumentally, there’s next to nothing truly worth noting since, other than one or two decent guitar solos, everything blends together like a group of workers at a dead store. The songs aren’t monotonous and do occasionally change the tone around, but even these points tend to feel like little more than a mere increase in volume without a distinguished change in playing style. Then there’s the infrequent use of sound effects on certain tracks, such as the distorted voice effect on “New World Machine” and the mechanized opening to “Cyber-Christ.” While they don’t dominate the album, their presence is notable and, other than lending to a couple decent openings, hardly feel necessary or contributory in a positive way.
It’s tough to find good, strong aspects to Astronomica
, though there are a couple points worthy of at least mild praise. The overall production is quite good and definitely the best of the band’s four albums thus far, which at least helps it avoid sounding like an 80’s band stuck in the late 90’s. Mid-listed song “Edge of Forever” happens to fare better than the rest of the album thanks to the calm sound giving it a smoother feel, making it somewhat enjoyable. And, as I said, vocalist Wade Black shows some promise throughout; if only they matched the music to his stronger deliveries.
is ultimately a big misstep for a briefly promising band that are well past their prime. The present subject matter is far beyond what the group should have ever tackled, let alone at this point in their career. Offering hardly more than a gigantic slice of rotting power metal cheese, even diehard fans of the band or genre are bound to struggle liking this lame slab.