Crystal Eyes - Killer (Massacre Records)

Faultless stuff from these criminally-ignored Swedes...
Release Date: 
25 Jul 2014 (All day)

Sweden’s Crystal Eyes, now over twenty years into their band’s existence, seem doomed to be one of those ‘never were’ bands, consigned to the backwaters of history, performing to a small but dedicated core of believers without ever bothering the wider consciousness. It’s a tragedy of course, doubly so when you consider the literally huge number of bands who have gone on to notoriety in this field who quite frankly aren’t fit to string one of Crystal Eyes’ guitars, but there you go. History is full of winners and losers, and whilst Crystal Eyes could never be described as such, they’ll definitely be seen in the final washup to fall on the wrong side of the achievement ledger.

All these facts are found to be utterly specious when you actually sit down and listen to any of the band’s albums. Their first full-length, 1999’s World of Black and Silver, is an absolute undiscovered classic of Euro power metal, and none of the five albums released between then and this most recent outing will disappoint fans of the power metal genre. And Killer? Well. It might just be the best thing they’ve done since that epic debut.

A fabulous blend of uptempo Maiden and Helloween influences, anthemic calls to metal arms and balladic majesty, Killer is quite simply one of the best albums I’ve had the pleasure of coming into contact with this year. Of course, we’ve heard it all before (in many ways this album is almost identical to Stormwarrior’s Thunder & Steele, released earlier this year), but the ebullience of the delivery of vocalist/guitarist Mikael Dahl, Niclas Karlsson (whose guitar duels with Dahl are a  particular highlight of the album), and rhythm section Claes Wikander (bass) and drummer Stefan Svantesson renders such cynical carping effectively useless, swept away by wave after wave of glorious riffage and stirring, singalong choruses.

The first two tracks alone are worth the price of admission; Opening with the strident title track, Crystal Eyes set out their stall from the get-go, but the it’s the second track, Warrior, that really rams the point home. A glorious homage to early eighties Iron Maiden, it’s chorus will get the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention at once, but it’s the sheer authenticity of the whole thing that makes the track so damn delicious. Soundwise the band has achieved a production that is just right – this does actually sound like a Killers-era  piece of Maiden, and whilst you may think that makes it sound a bit dated well… you’d be right. But it’s just the right sound for this music, if you get what I’m saying. When the band thrashes things up a bit, as they do on the histrionic Hail the Fallen, those eighties drums make perfect sense, the roaming bass weaving in and out of the bass drums, the guitars meshing in unison before peeling away from one another in harmonious discordance… it’s pure sonic nirvana for power metal fans. 

Other highlights are the excellent Solar Mariner and closing track Dogs on Holy Ground, but there is in all truth not a single wasted moment to be found anywhere on Killer. A band at the very top of its game that deserves to be heard by a worldwide audience, Crystal Eyes have produced an absolute heavy metal masterpiece with Killer