Monday, May 26, 2008

Review: CRESCENT SHIELD - The Last Of My Kind

Background: My musical voyage has taken me from one shore to another, exploring many different sounds and lands. While I have spent a lifetime discovering a multitude of different musical genres and styles, the initial focus of this blog will be Metal and Progressive Rock. After being a co-editor of the Suck City fanzine in the 80's, I drifted far from Metal, only to pick it back up in a huge way around the year 2000. Being an ultimate maniac, obsessive and completist, somehow I MISSED the genesis of the new Traditional Metal revival here in the United States. I guess this is because I was so incredibly focused on Metal and Prog in Europe and Scandinavia. I was bitterly disappointed in my home country's lack of contribution to the types of Metal I enjoyed most. Agalloch and Iced Earth were the great exceptions. But stupid me, I missed some incredible Metal being created by some new bands who have taken up the Traditional EPIC F*&king Metal banner. I am here now to help correct the errors of my ways, to promote and hopefully inform listeners about some great new bands, whether they come from the US, Greece, Italy, or wherever. One of the bands that has kicked my butt clear across the globe and to the moon and back (all in one piece) is CRESCENT SHIELD, with their debut album "The Last Of My Kind." Although this album came out in 2006, and they are hard at work recording their next opus, I wish to write about this great album, because I know there are people out there who have not heard it, but would f*&king LOVE it!!!!

The Meat Of The Matter: "The Last Of My Kind is Traditional Metal, pure and simple, the kind that morphed into being during the 1980's by such bands as Jag Panzer, Liege Lord, and Fates Warning, all being influenced by the ultimate masters, Maiden and Priest. Whenever I hear a new metal album or band, and the first song plays, and the guitars, tempo and melody is blasting my butt, my hopes go high, only leading to the terror of hearing the lead vocalist's voice for the first time. So many times I have been momentarily stoked about a band, only to be crushed amongst the rocks by a totally negative 8 cents singer who's obnoxious style and voice sends me to the shores of disappointment. I guess I am a bit picky about singers. So as the stomping intro to opener "Above Mere Mortals" came pulsating out of the speakers, my hopes were as high as the moon, and I braced for impact. When vocalist Michael Grant belted out the opening line of "Honor the dead that have fallen," I rejoiced, pissed my pants, and sighed, HE IS EIGHT and GREAT! Yes indeed, the dude's voice reminds me of the legendary "The Tyrant" (Harry Conklin) of Jag Panzer, legend of legends Brian Ross of Blitzkrieg & Satan, and to a lesser extent Andy Michaud of Liege Lord (their original vocalist)!!! Of course, the next to last thing you want is a clone singer, and I must say Grant has his own significant personality, but he definitely comes from the school of the aforementioned greats.

So I was off and cruisin' to this new disc, but unexpectedly was then saddened as I figured out that the first song was a Metal Anthem! Erckkk, stab me with a million toothpicks, but I NEVER have been a real fan of Metal Anthems. Testimonials to the great METAL LIFESTYLE and MOVEMENT have never really invoked passion within me. Call this incongruous, or sinful, I don't really care, I just never really liked them. The second song is entitled "Slave To The Metal Horde," and I thought, "Uh-oh, this is sinking fast... Please don't s(t)ink!" A quick look at the lyric sheet helped reduce my fears significantly, as I learned this song was inspired by H.G. Wells' "War Of The Worlds," and that the lyrics were intelligent and somewhat poetic. I felt greatly relieved.

When the third track, "Rise Of The Red Crescent Moon" arose from my speakers, I began a great dance of joy and fierce air guitar. Now this is the SHIT! A mid-tempo riff pounder, with a great chorus, tasteful and forceful lead guitar, and gorgeous imagery in the lyrics, this has all the earmarks of a classic! The swirling vortex of guitar leads and vocal enchantments at the conclusion of the song made the hairs on my arm stand up.

In this song, I was especially taken with the poetic lyrics (yes, I mean it, and I rarely call Metal lyrics truly poetic!). These are so cool, I have to share some of them with you...

A swollen tired sun will soon die
The stars will form above and below me
My moon it closely follows it's light
A razor thin reflection will humor
And crack the

Smile of the red crescent moon
Solace on the crimson horizon
Pride of the red crescent moon
Rule within the sky of forever

The city and high clouds remain blind
My eyes can be the only witness
Glisten to the atmospheres curse
And follow the fate of the light who creates you

Time of the red crescent moon
The night governor has fallen
Night of the red crescent moon
Slips into the sea of the fallen

Yay Michael Grant. Great job bud! You get a Shakespearian Abominogacious salute!

There are other classic songs all over this sucker. One that really makes me fly to the Cosmos and back is the phenomenal title track, the fantastic "The Last Of My Kind," written by guitarist Dan DeLucie. This stands toe-to-toe with any great 80's classic... Hell F*&K the decade comparisons!!! I am sick of that shit! This is as good as Traditional Metal gets!

I also freak out on "North For The Winter." Anybody who really knows me, knows that any song that has to do with Winter and the North is almost always golden in my book! "The Great Devoid" is another fantastic epic, "Unfinished Ash" is really cool, and the closer "The Passing" is another classic. The rest of the songs are really good too. One thing I can say is, Crescent Shield sure knows how to write a good chorus. For more info on all the songs, click here for notes on each one from vocalist Michael Grant.

There really is no dead weight on this album, and the musicians really wail. Although I call them "new," these are veteran Metal MO's, who have done their time in other bands. Michael Grant has sung in more bands than "Carter Has Pills," and the others have been a part of Destiny's End, New Eden, Engine, among many others, and bassist Melanie Sisneros used to be in the immortal Iron Maidens! None of the musicians are virtuosoes, but they are all extremely good. Guitarist DeLucie has lots of inspired solos that are melodic, but also sharp yet swirly, prickly and harmonic, pointed and blended, often referencing eastern melodies. Craig Anderson's drums are bashing, exact, and tribal, while Sisneros' bass is propulsive and on-the-money (hey, anybody who had to be Steve Harris in another life has to be good!).

I think one thing that really brings the 80's feel to the record (besides the song's themselves) is the production. It has that kind of distant, compressed feel that is only missing the occasional pop-and-crackle of vinyl. This is both a blessing and a curse (wellll, not a curse, but maybe not everybody's cup of tea). Whether this is from lack of budget, or a purposeful attempt to evoke that era, I am not sure. To me, it is *NOT* a problem. I like it. I think it adds to the atmosphere that conjures up 80's Jag Panzer or Satan. However, in the year 2008, some Metal fans might be looking for something more modern sounding. We'll see what things sound like on their new opus, "The Stars Of Never Seen," which is being produced the legendary Bill Metoyer (of old Fates Warning/Metal Blade fame).

In Closure: "The Last Of My Kind" is a great record, one that makes me proud to be an American Metal 8-Center again! I think it is the perfect choice for my first review on my new blog. In the future, I will certainly venture beyond Traditional Epic Metal, for I have many, many Metallic styles that I want to explore. But this goes back to my roots, and the earth from which my 8 Cent Egg was hatched. BUY THIS! It is very, very good. SAY YEAH, NO SCREAMING DOUBT!

One Last Question: But what exactly is an "Unfinished Ash?"

For more on Crescent Shield, click here, and here!

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