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Crystal Breed: Barriers

Barriers is the second album from Crystal Breed, a band who like to deliver varied takes on prog and in places fusion-lite. The press release states that the four musicians involved in the outfit – Niklas Turmann (guitars, vocals), Corvin Bahn (keyboards, vocals), Nico Deppisch (bass) and Thorsten Harnitz (drums) – earn their living with Gamma Ray, Kamelot, Saxon and Uli Jon Roth. Although with it not expanding on that information, I'm not sure if that makes them band mates, techs, or cooks? Either way, Crystal Breed sound exactly like none of those bands, so the actual relevance is moot anyway…

What is relevant, is that the foursome are hugely talented musicians who know their chosen instruments extremely well. Although vocally (and I'm not really 100% sure on when Turmann or Bahn are singing at any given point, so apologies), the lead vocals don't really have the character to pull off the lofty ambitions this band possess. The sound of a singer constantly straining for either the high note, or a deep rasp often round every corner. Conversely, the layered backing vocals are supreme, which great though they are, only highlights the main men's weaknesses. Something that can also be said for opening track "The Brain Train", where prog, jazz, classic rock and whatever else is within touching distance is squeezed into a framework that can't really take the strain.

Much better is the more overtly melodic progressive metal of "Barrier Of Ignorance", keyboards constantly evolving and shaping the mood, as guitars cascade through some meaty riffs and heartfelt vocals. However even here there's a feel that Crystal Breed are more interested in illustrating just how much they can pack into a song, rather than knowing when enough's enough. As you traverse this ever changing landscape, so a stab of Latin horns hurtles into and out of view, beautiful piano tugs at the heartstrings, toms are clattered with intent, guitars are tortured and then loved and so on and so on. Even with the track itself having many highlights, you simply can't help but think that the band's driving force is to go 'look at us, guess what we can do!'. If you love technique and arrangements, you may well stand on your chair and applaud. If it's a tight, meaningful song structure you crave, you may well slump back in that chair in despair.

Strangely with all this hither and thither abounding, it's "Memories Of..." and it's gentle acoustic guitar, piano and vocal approach which impresses most and lives with you long. It's a beautiful, poised piece and proof that when Crystal Breed stop aiming to impress, they actually do just that. But with "The Castle" and "A Prisoner Of The Present" going back to the game of spin the stylistic wheel, the effect is quickly lost.

Barriers isn't a terrible album, it's just a terribly frustrating one where you never quite shake off the feeling that this band have much more to offer than their current ideals allows. If they can calm things down somewhat and focus on what works best, rather than what might make jaws drop, they would do much better.

Track Listing
1. The Brain Train
2. Barrier Of Ignorance
3. Liar To Yourself
4. Dying Stars
5. No Escape
6. Memories Of…
7. The Castle
8. A Prisoner Of The Present

Added: February 20th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Crystal Breed online
Hits: 1878
Language: english

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