CD Reviews

Crystal Ball - 'In The Beginning' / 'Hard Impact' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     December 22, 2011    
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Re-release of these two albums including Japanese bonus tracks.

This is my introduction to the German/Swiss band Crystal Ball and AFM Records have seen fit to re-release these two albums including Japanese bonus tracks.

Fronted by the impressive vocal work of Mark Sweeney 'Twilight Zone' from 'In the Beginning' hits hard and fast and the guitars cut through with crystal clarity .It's clear the band are aiming for a signature sound of impressive soaring vocal choruses.

'Magic' has a wonderful hook and Scott Leach guitar work sets the song alight much like Reb Beach did during his stint with Dokken. I often find a lot of European melodic rock quite tedious when the band resort to the cliché double bass drum patterns we have heard so many times. Unfortunately 'Fire Still Burns' strays down this avenue and though I am sure its great fun to play it is all a bit "heard it before and done better" by Helloween. 'Lay down the Law' with its Accept style guitar work brought to mind classic early Bonfire and is a good heads down rocker and a step in the right direction.

There seem to be a variety of influences on offer here and some work better than others. Take 'Shake Me' which suffers from a throwaway chorus that only the likes of Poison could get away with, you cannot help but feel the band is capable of lot more than this . 'Take Me Down 'gets back on track with some slow lurching guitar work that comes alive in the soaring chorus and is a clear winner of a song. I rather enjoyed the opening notes of 'Promised Land' and the song is very reminiscent of classic Steelheart and is to be applauded for its polished song structure. Final song 'Silence of the Night' originally only on the Japanese release is a simple ballad that at the least gives Mark Sweeney room to breathe and stretch his vocals.

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Moving on to the 'Hard Impact' release we find the band really finding its legs and Tommy Newton has done a fine job in the production department. Despite the rather lame subject matter 'Soul Mate' still manages to shine but it's not until we hit 'Won't Bite' that the band hit their stride with some guitar work none too dissimilar to Tyketto as the song builds to a climatic chorus which will be bouncing around your head for days. I certainly find 'Hard Impact' to be the better of the two releases if only because the band's song writing seems somewhat more confident. Not afraid to try something new the dirty vocals on 'Queen of the Night' sounds utterly compelling before we return to the now familiar soaring vocals that hit the chorus part. 'Crystal Ball' has some nice keyboard work that compliments the frantic pace of the song and it's almost like Helloween doing AOR, if you get my drift.

For me Mark Sweeney is the ace card here, and even the most standard of songs like 'Shine On' become an assault on the ears as the man displays his impressive vocal range. That's not to say the rest of the band is slacking, the percussion is tight and the guitar work always cuts through and hits the mark. Needless to say Crystal Ball will be on my play list for some time.

Ray Paul

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