Words: Craig Hartranft
Having regrouped and rebounded with 2013's Dawnbreaker, the Swiss metal band returns with Liferider. In the best sense, the band stays the course with their melodic heavy metal infused with a good measure of hard rock groove. I might suggest that his album leans more to the former, but we're probably simply splitting hairs.
Yet the heavy riffs abound on this album fortified by a rather thick rhythm section. Even so, melody and harmony does not take a back seat to any of this. Combined with the rock groove presence, this has always been Crystal Balls' best strength. All these things come through within Mayday, Gods Of Rock, Antidote, and the quite catchy Eye To Eye, featuring Battle Beastís Noora Louhimo. But this song may remind of something else as it has a strong power metal vibe. You're likely to catch more of this with the title track, Liferider, and Balls Of Steel, both of which have a heavy and brisk pace.
Alternatively, Rock Of Life and more so Hold Your Flag, have this heavy sluggish feeling like your slugging it out with the riffs just to get to the end. Also, there are two lighter numbers, relatively speaking, with Bleeding and Memory Run. Not necessarily ballad or anthem, but both back down on the heaviness and tempo. The former allows you to hear that vocalist Steven Mageney doesn't always have a raspy side to his voice.
The album also adds three bonus tracks. Two are Dio tracks, Sacred Heart and Sign of the Southern Cross (technically a Black Sabbath song), recorded for a Massacre Records tribute album. I get the tribute album. What I don't get is why the latter song is so often covered by bands. It's simply not one of my favorites. (And I probably just pissed off half of the Dio and Sabbath fans out there in metal land.) The third bonus is Not Like You. Not sure where this comes from or whether it's a new song or not, but it is another heavy rocker. Once more, Liferider finds Crystal Ball offering more of their heavy metal fused with melodic hard rock with the expected results.
Liferider finds Crystal Ball offering more of their heavy metal fused with melodic hard rock with the expected results.
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