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Crimson Glory: Transcendence

A warning label should come with Transcendence (Roadrunner, 1988) stating: This music is highly infectious and limited exposure could change your cellular wisdom forever more! One time through is about all it takes and the songs just "unpreventably" keep sinking in further and further, irrespective of whether you are currently listening to the music or not. That-- to me, is the ultimate hallmark sign of something representing true art. The songs are dark, majestic and melodic; delivered with a gentle sense of theatrics, mystery and a perspective that "at times" is almost hard to believe that an American band actually penned and published them.

The music, which is an extremely well played prog/power metal hybrid style, has many elements and layers of influence, both subtle and otherwise. It should be noted that Transcendence is not "progressive" in a pure instrumental sense; rather it earns that distinction through a graceful and feminine delivery of musical and lyrical themes that defies rigidity and embraces open exploration similar to the ideals of Queen.

The main composers in the band are Jon Denning (Lead guitar) and Jeff Lords (Bass) who interestingly create many of the songs around layered harmony lines; similar in sound to Brian May of Queen, as opposed to constant power chords. When they use the latter, it's usually in the form of voice leading techniques for maximum melodious impact. Just listen to "Masque of the Red Death" ignoring (if you can) the rip on the Powerslave riff that makes intermittent appearances after the end of each line in their respective verses and you can hear how those harmonies comprise the chorus and the instrumental section that follows it at around 2:03. Also, check out the chorus to "Lonely", the instrumental breaks and chorus in "Burning Bridges", etc... Through harmony the band very cleverly packs the songs with extra lyrical depth and provides breathing room throughout that increases and maintains interest while reducing auditory fatigue. Whether by omission or commission the formula is brilliant to say the least. This unconventional thinking is what allows them the privilege of being in the company of other so-called "progressive" bands without ever being a showboat. It is just so much more mental if you know what I mean. Also--the lyrics, primarily composed by Denning, Lords and Midnight are a comprehensive collection of the supranormal, anomalous and the broken hearted. This is an interesting mix to say the least, which also adds an aura of mystery around any easy definitions of this band's musical & lyrical paradigm.

On to the vocals…Midnight is blessed with a vocal range that most others could not fathom. Let's put it this way: If he was ever captured in a doorless glass prism; all he would have to do is scream and he would be instantly freed!! He also possesses another great ability—that would be his immense capacity for emotional output. Two of the recordings best vocal moments are "Lonely" and "Painted Skies" where you find his empathetical concern actually affecting his vocal inflection; creating incredible dynamics and metaphorical voicing in which expressive value is added to each successive syllable! Such attention to detail is accomplished through spontaneity (believe it or not) because no amount of training can teach you to do something that has to be a part of your soul to accomplish with such fluidity!

If there is one issue that I have with this recording is that I absolutely believe the percussion is mostly performed (if not completely) by machine and not Dana Burnell. This defies contemporary thinking about this recording, but if you listen objectively to "Masque of the Red Death" it is painfully obvious. I have also watched the drum performance on the scope, which I might add, is way to even for those days and many of the drum rolls are a dead giveaway as well. In the end it doesn't amount to "jack" because Transcendence is phenomenal on its own terms and Dr. Rhythm is not going to change that!

Although the band never achieved the ultimate vision they had for themselves, they certainly created something that will be forever lasting as a true archetype that pushed conventional boundaries with a vision transcending their own generation. That, my friends, may be "the purest form of reward!"

Track Listing
1. Lady of Winter
2. Red Sharks
3. Painted Skies
4. Masque of the Red Death
5. In Dark Places
6. Where Dragons Rule
7. Lonely
8. Burning Bridges
9. Eternal World
10. Transcendence

Added: May 8th 2008
Reviewer: Hugh Dark
Related Link: Crimson Glory Website
Hits: 6655
Language: english

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Crimson Glory: Transcendence
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-05-08 07:46:23
My Score:

If there was ever an album that I was dying to find a remaster done for then it would most certainly be Crimson Glory's sophomore release Transcendence. Originally released by Roadrunner Records in 1988 this album is nothing less than a Progressive Metal masterpiece from beginning to end, and when Metal Mind Productions announced their plans on reissuing it I was very excited to say the least. The Florida band had been impressing fans of Progressive Metal for a couple of years now with an intense musical and visual presentation that began with their self titled debut album Crimson Glory. The band sported big hair and instruments and wore silver masks to conceal their faces but beyond the imagery we found out just how good they could play and it made the debut one of the strongest of its kind for the day. Transcendence takes us to the next logical step as the bands explorations into the realms that they first presented us with on their self-titled album grow ever more interesting and involved.
The album, while musically along the same lines as their first (thought perhaps a little more locked in and melodic), found one major change in their visuals. As the early photos demonstrate, the band wore full face silver masks and only singer Midnight had his mouth exposed in order to sing with more ease than having it covered. By the time Transcendence was released the band had discovered that performing with faces covered was quite hot and difficult to do so they would move to donning half face masks that were very reminiscent of something out of the Phantom of the Opera. Each of these new masks was slightly different from each other and with it I felt that it added new levels of drama to them as opposed to taking any of it away. Thinking back on the original album I remembered that I never owned this release on vinyl and instead had only been able to find it on cassette tape back in the day and according to research it had never been on CD until around 2001.

As an album this has remained one of my favorites for some twenty years and it's easy to see why when it begins as "Lady Of Winter" brings you into the bands new music. The heavy opener finds the band at the ready while singer Midnight sings at registers that would make glass break under normal circumstances. It's a great lead off to the bands heaviest number ever, "Red Sharks", with its thunderous double bass drums and riffs that make you reach for your nearest air guitar. The chorus is rather catchy here as well for a heavy number and that's not always the case. "Painted Skies" is a bit of a ballad and its imagery throughout the song both beautiful and sad. The bands first real ballad was the actually rocking number "Lonely". A video was done for this one and it remains the bands most popular song to this day in terms of its reach. Clearly the band was onto something with the way that they delivered the whole package. In 1988 we were finding the slow decline of Glam Rock and the beginnings of Grunge Rock and it was bands like Crimson Glory that were continuing the charge in a different manner alongside groups like Fates Warning and Queensryche. There fans were many and perhaps they were even inspiring new bands such as Dream Theater to some extent. "Masque Of The Red Death" deals with the epic story by Edgar Allan Poe and yes you do hear a lot of Iron Maiden's "Powerslave' track in this one. I never took it as a copycat thing but more as the two bands using the same Middle Eastern riff in their respective songs. The album comes in a nice digipak case and gives you the lyrics and photos to help you along with the music. The song-writing to me was much stronger this time around and the realms that the band was singing about and the emotions all the more enticing when it came down to it. Sadly, this would be the last album for drummer Dana Burnell and guitarist Ben Jackson who would choose to leave the group and pursue other things. With their replacements also came the abandoning of their signature masks and the continuation of the musical direction that many had grown fond of. Strange And Beautiful would be a very different album and receive very mixed opinions from their fans. It has also been reissued and remastered by Metal Mind Productions along with Astronomica, the bands final album. A bonus track, the single version of "Lonely" is included, but not the video which I think was a terrible omission.

Transcendence is a must have release for fans of Progressive Metal and especially those who have wondered about this particular band over the years. These special edition reissues are nice but I think a comprehensive boxed collection would be perfect since there were only four albums in total. Take your journey to dark places of an eternal world where dragons rule the painted skies for with Crimson Glory at your side you will never be lonely.

» Reader Comments:

Crimson Glory: Transcendence
Posted by Carlos Canales Vega on 2007-09-13 09:42:37
My Score:

I agree with everything.Just to add my opinion: Highly Recommended!
I wish a remastered version comes up someday.

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