Crystal Lake

Helix

Written by: KW on 14/02/2019 18:26:19

Japanese metalcore powerhouse Crystal Lake have seen quite the success internationally in the last couple of years and are now back again with the follow up to 2016’s entertaining, yet also somewhat schizophrenic album “True North”. I have had some extremely high hopes for this one, seeing the immense power behind the singles released leading up to this new album, which has the futuristic sounding title “Helix”. I quite frankly expected this to be one of the best metalcore albums of the decade when it finally dropped and now it’s time to see if Crystal Lake have worked out the kinks of the former record to produce something truly outstanding.

The album definitely leaves an incredibly strong impression to start with, pretty much opening with one of the most savage metalcore tracks I’ve heard in recent memory. The foreboding, robotic interlude “Helix” leads into the absolutely fierce “Aeon”, which beats its listener into a bloody pulp with its unrelenting intensity and speed. Ryo Kinoshita shows his vocal prowess flawlessly, ranging from black metal inspired shrieks to hardcore screaming and deep guttural growls, while blastbeats and bouncy riffs never let go right up until the disintegrating, cyberpunk-ish, stop/start breakdown at the end, which just sounds really fresh and original, as though the track were breaking into pieces. “Agony” keeps the same high standard going but turns to the more anthemic, atmospheric sound that the band has pretty much perfected over the years. The lead guitar work and overall production really shines on this track, including layers of spine-chilling melodies, brutal breakdowns and a mountainous finish with some great clean vocals to top it all off. “+81” includes some overtones of nu-metal which might turn some people off (though this sound isn’t exactly new for the band), and while it’s all a bit campy and generic with the rap-like vocal delivery and “whooa-whooa” gang vocals, the infectious groove, bouncy riffs and attitude make it hard to not let out a little grin of approval. “Lost in Forever” presents another anthemic metalcore rager, with some more fantastic lead work, a catchy chorus which is sure to be a crowd favourite to scream along to, and some furious guest vocal spots from Daniel McWhorter and Tyler Riley of Gideon fame.

It is pretty clear that “Helix” is actually really close to the phenomenal metalcore album I was expecting when Crystal Lake play to their strengths, which is when the focus is laid on catchy, atmospheric metalcore in the style of the likes of Architects. So when “Outgrow” includes some pretty cringeworthy rapping, it all starts going a bit downhill for me, and in turn gets worse and worse with “Hail to the Fire” and “Just Confusing”. “Hail to the Fire” is one of the heaviest songs on the album alongside the aforementioned “Aeon”, but what “Aeon” includes in originality and strong tonal expression, the two note riff in “Hail to the Fire” and Jonathan Davis-like ”zomba, zomba”, makes it way too cheesy to listen to. The cookie-cutter “badass” lyrics aren’t helping either:

“This is initiation

Just rethink why you're doing this

If you want some

Come get some, motherfucker!”

I’m gonna copy some other reviewers in calling “Just Confusing”… well, just confusing. I have no idea what the wince-inducing, forced maniac sounding rapping, rattling trap hi-hats and distorted synths are doing on this record but I know it sounds hilariously terrible and breaks up the flow of the record completely. Next please. Fortunately “Apollo” and “Sanctuary” bring back the group’s strengths in droves with some of the strongest tracks of their entire discography, where “Apollo” especially leaves a mark with some truly amazing writing and an expansive sound. The main clean riff is a stroke a genius when played together with the down-tuned wall of sound at play here and never fails to make my whole body shiver when it all culminates in almost post-rock-like soundscapes towards the end.

The end product is an album that bafflingly possesses the highest highs, but also some pretty low lows. It’s not that having variety in your sound is bad at all, but I’d much rather have some real experimentation rather than average nu-metal worship if you want to mix it up on your record. When Crystal Lake nails it, they are undoubtedly one of the single best metalcore bands on the planet, but like the former album “True North”, the consistency is just not there yet for the band to create the utter masterpiece I can tell they’re capable of. The clicky production and mechanical sound of the drums can also be a bit grating without becoming too much of a problem because of the meaty guitar sounds, but make no mistake: “Helix” is far from a bad album, albeit being a bit of a disappointing one. I’d still very much recommend checking out the tracks listed below and the incredible video for “Aeon”, because metalcore doesn’t get much better nor more exciting than that in my opinion.

Download: Aeon, Agony, Lost in the Moment, Apollo
For the fans of: Architects, Polaris, Currents, Fir For A King
Listen: Facebook

Release date 15.02.2019
SharpTone Records


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