Crimson Glory – Transcendence

Crimson Glory – Transcendence – 5/5
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Five Metal Classics you’ve never heard of: Number One

In that time before ‘progressive metal’ had its sound typified by Dream Theatre, and when ‘Power Metal’ was a term that had yet to really come into fruition, this artist capable of transcending the genre boundaries arrived, the influences of the musical styles just a short way in the future overflowing from each track. Seemingly capable of tackling everything from ‘Helloweens’ melodic banshee screams (‘Lady of Winter’), Maiden-like aggressive riffs (‘Red Sharks’) and emotional ‘Redemption’ like acoustic ballads (‘Painted Skies’), that’s just how the album begins.

And it is this immense variety that results in such a major strength to this piece, still feeling a complete entity, instantly recognisable by ‘Midnight’ McDonald’s unique brand of vocals as they melodically soar and scream in a relentless display of emotional energy, powerfully reaching unbelievable falsetto highs that puts others to shame. Yet, he is still capable of performing in a distinctive, altogether softer mid-range that so rarely seems frequented by the many recent masters of the falsetto; all the time complemented by the drummer’s insatiable appetite for his fills and rolls, prominently heard pounding away in the crisp yet raw production, never content with merely sticking to the beat laid before him.

Developing the melodies through the combination of the three guitars, the lead alternating between the soft acoustic melodic ballads (which come in no short supply) and the rhythmic electric, reminding us of the days before bands performed neo-classical shredded solos at every opportunity and instead seeming to become so entranced by his own melody that he forgets he’s meant to have finished, forcing the vocalist to do battle to return the focus. With this mini-duel occurring, the deep bombastic groove of the bass plunders on playing a prominent role beside the rhythm of the guitars, harmonising with one another to provide that all important grounded feeling to the track at hand.

Sticking their neck out briefly into political territory for ‘Red Sharks,’ the powerful imagery in ‘burning bridges,’ or the existential contemplation in ‘Transcendence,’ the lyrics haven’t been shown any less attention than the instrumentation, meticulously produced to allow each of the instruments to flourish. What’s left to say other than not only was this release ahead of its time, but manages to do a better job than the vast majority of others to arrive in their wake; a lost late-80s gem that should have been remembered alongside the greats. Who’d have guessed ‘Roadrunner’ would have something worth owning in their back catalogue?

R.I.P. John Midnight McDonald (July 2009)

Highlights: I gave up trying to choose when I realised only ‘In Dark Places’ and ‘Eternal World’ weren’t listed.