Album of the Week 45-2015: Crimson Glory – Transcendence

Futuristic sounding albums ironically have a way of not standing the test of time too well. ‘Transcendence’, the sophomore album of Florida-based progressive Metal band Crimson Glory, still sounds quite fresh. It’s obvious that it’s a product of the late eighties Progmetal scene with its sizable amounts of reverb, but its pristine, hi-fi production gives the album quite a modern sound still to this day. Besides that – and even more importantly – the album contains all the melodic Metal songwriting and spirited performances one can wish for. It’s one of the greatest achievements of any American Metal band to this day.

While Crimson Glory obviously comes from the same sort of musical aesthetic as eighties progressive Metal giants Queensrÿche and Fates Warning – high-pitched clean vocals, traditional Metal riffs, melodic lead guitars and unpredictable song patterns – they always had somewhat more of a Power Metal sound than them. Crimson Glory’s songs transcend (no pun intended) the traditional verse and chorus structures, but at the same time are recognizable and intense. People who are allergic to catchy choruses should probably stick to less accessible bands, but this is also why Crimson Glory can function as something of a gateway Prog band for newcomers.

Most of the songs on ‘Transcendence’ are little works of guitar art with a twin melodies courtesy of Jon Drenning soaring on top of Ben Jackson’s remarkably melodic riff work. But just as impressive are Midnight’s vocal histrionics. He screams, he wails, he sings and he can move from a warm, soft voice to an aggressive edge seemingly effortlessly. All those elements shine in Power Metal classics like ‘Masque Of The Red Death’, ‘Where Dragons Rule’, ‘Lady Of Winter’ or the particularly theatrical ‘Eternal World’. ‘Red Sharks’ even borders on Thrash Metal; its vocal work is nothing short of insane.

Outside of their supposed comfort zone, Crimson Glory is possibly even better. ‘In Dark Places’ is slower and darker than the rest of the album, but that also gives Midnight the room to shine and Drenning to prove that he doesn’t have to be firing on all cylinders all the time. It also shows what a good bassist Jeff Lords is. ‘Burning Bridges’ shows the band at its most theatrical and the closing title track shows more than a passing Led Zeppelin resemblance. There are also two power ballads here. ‘Lonely’ is good, but ‘Painted Skies’ takes the cake. It has been one of my favorite power ballads of all time since the second I heard it. Midnight’s vocal performance is simply breathtaking, the dynamics are impeccable and the lyrics move me.

After ‘Transcendence’, Crimson Glory would enter a musical identity crisis they would never fully recover from. They attempted a few failed comebacks until sadly, Midnight died in 2009. The band tried a reboot with Todd LaTorre on vocals, who would later depart frustrated by their inactivity. And that’s really too bad, but at least they gave us two masterpieces of progressive Power Metal; the self-titled debut is almost as good as this. ‘Transcendence’ deserves to be heard by anyone who likes their Metal with melody and passion. And a fantastic singer. Rest in peace, Midnight.

Recommended tracks: ‘Painted Skies’, ‘In Dark Places’, ‘Where Dragons Rule’

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