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Massacre (2014)
Rating: 8/10

Greek headbangers Crystal Tears have been lurking in the shadows since 1997 but Hellmade is only their third record, following on from the 2006 debut Choirs Of Immortal and its 2010 follow-up Generation X.

These guys certainly don’t rush when it comes to recording albums. This time round the band has strengthened into a quintet and had an almost complete overall, with only drummer Chrisafis Tantanozis surviving from the last record. The band also consists of vocalist Søren Adamsen (ex-Artillery) who replaces Ian Parry, bassist Alex Chamalidis who comes in for Stratos Dionisopoulos, while guitarist Dimitris Goutziamanis makes way for the duo of Kostas Sotos and Máté Nagy.

You’d hope that with such alterations Crystal Tears latest offering would exude an extra layer of craftsmanship, maturity and know-how, and indeed it does as it effortlessly combines fluent and heavy power metal with some fantastic melodies.

The album opens with the almost Eastern influence of ‘Destination Zero’, which paves its way with a swirling guitar before branching off into a juggernaut of riff and drum. Again, the solo worms its way through the barrage as Søren Adamsen immediately makes us aware of his presence. Initially the vocal is smooth but soon it takes on a darker, more powerful tone, and this can also be said for the music too, which drives hard throughout without ever succumbing to unwarranted subtlety. Instead, this sort of metal evokes the soaring quality of latter day Dio and numerous European power metal outfits, such as Primal Fear.

Crystal Tears aren’t simply about drama; in fact, at times there is a real feel of menace about certain tracks on this opus. Again, I refer to segments of the opening track, but more so the thrashing intro of ‘The Skies Are Bleeding’ which is a full throttle, hell for leather molten metal crusher that runs riot even as it steadies its pace. Again the solos are potent, meandering through the wall of rhythm, bass and weighty percussion. Vocally, it’s spot on as Søren Adamsen shifts between grandiose bellowing and rancid rasps.

‘Out Of The Shadows’ opts for a traditional metal approach; the drums gallop at ease and the guitar is less threatening, but it’s one of the only weak moments on what quickly becomes a solid heavy metal album. Whether it’s the simmering ‘The Devil Inside’, with its measured introduction, the chugging fury of ‘Psycho Pollution’ or the rockier, hip-shaking flurry of ‘Rock N Growl’ – which sounds a little out of place on this platter, I have to admit – they are still consistently fine tracks which showcase two talented guitarists. And for added flavour, check out the cover of ‘Beds Are Burning’, originally performed by Midnight Oil. Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but it’s still nice to hear such a powerful song given the metallic treatment.

Hellmade is the best album Crystal Tears have come up with so far.

Neil Arnold

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