Crimson Glory

In Dark Places: 1986-2000

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Florida-based power metal band Crimson Glory formed in the early '80s and created a small sensation based partly around frontman Midnight's astonishing vocal powers, and partly around his and his bandmates' decision to perform in metal masks like something out of the movie Phantom of the Paradise. Indeed, from their name to their image to, in some ways, their sound, Crimson Glory were like a metal band that you might see in a TV movie. They were faintly ludicrous in their over the top theatricality, but the music couldn't be dismissed nearly as easily. The band's self-titled 1986 debut, and the follow-up, 1988's Transcendence, mixed anthemic rockers very similar to early Queensr├┐che with swooning ballads. Midnight's upper register vocals were exquisitely controlled, and even if his piercing high notes could occasionally place listeners' glassware (if not the fillings in their teeth) at risk, he was possibly even more talented a singer than metal stars like Rob Halford or Bruce Dickinson. The band's music was ultra-clean, technically proficient hard rock/metal with plenty of squealing guitar solos and an overall slickness perfectly attuned to what metalheads of the era -- the ones who hadn't been converted to Metallica fandom yet -- wanted to hear. On album number three, 1991's Strange and Beautiful, the band made changes. Members came and went, the face masks were abandoned, Midnight's vocals became more grounded (though the high notes were still present at times) and the songwriting moved away from the complex, progressive power metal of the first two records in favor of a mainstream hard rock sound, with occasional side trips into tribal percussion and funk-metal ("Dance on Fire"). Indeed, in some ways, Strange and Beautiful wasn't that different from a late-'80s Robert Plant solo album. It also marked Midnight's final recording with the band. On 1998's Astronomica, they recruited vocalist Wade Black to front the group, and changed their sound quite radically, though his vocals were arguably even more high-pitched and ear-piercing, the music behind him was post-thrash progressive power metal, with samples of news broadcasts and war documentaries adorning bass-heavy, throbbing groove metal that frequently erupted with shredtastic guitar soloing. The song "New World Machine" featured a "robotic" treatment on Black's voice for part of it, while the title track added faux-Egyptian guitar melodies. It was an adventurous album (and it's a two-CD set here, laden with live tracks and demos), but the band's masked past was too much to overcome and they couldn't make any real commercial headway. This is a very good set for fans of '80s power metal; all of the band's music has been lovingly remastered, and the booklet tells their story in great detail. But Crimson Glory were never a band destined to have crossover appeal, and in 2010, they sound very much of their time.

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