Almost exactly a year ago we reviewed Crystal Lake’s album THE SIGN, without a doubt one of our favorite albums of the year. Ever since then, we’ve been craving for more heavy music from this band. Now, the long-awaited album True North is finally released, let’s see how Crystal Lake answered our cravings, let’s break it down!
Before exposing all the bits of True North, allow us to get you back on track by giving you a short recap. When vocalist Ryo joined Crystal Lake back in 2012, the band’s sound drastically changed from sounding along the line of screamo to a more metalcore/nu metal sound. During this progression two prominent albums were released, CUBES and the aforementioned THE SIGN. Both albums which were created as a collaborative work by taking help from well-known artists from the scene, such as Hiro from FACT, Kenta from Crossfaith, and many more. Guess what, this time around Crystal Lake was able to get JESSE from the popular nu metal punk band RIZE to guest the album!
Introducing the album is the ambient track Alpha with the purpose of creating a ferocious atmosphere before stepping into the unknown. With a fierce intro and Ryo’s demonic voice, the next track Omega quickly drags you into the heavy grooves that Crystal Lake is well known for. However, it is already here we’re able to notice a distinctive difference seeping in. It is no question that Omega is a really heavy song, but the band decided to incorporate a contrasting ambiance, it’s surprisingly calming and works really well to balance out the heaviness. After all, even if a cake tastes great, eating an excessive amount of it is too much of a good thing. What’s weird is that the contrasting sound of heavy and ambiance feels almost separated, as they were two separate layers although in still sync.
This is made even more conspicuous in the fourth track Metro, with its dreamy outro build-up and with the combination of unusual sounding melodies provided by the lead guitar throughout the entire song, picking out notes from the chord D#9sus4. Metro is a great example of this separated layers and also as an introduction away from the band’s conservative metal character, because here you’ll not only find the instrumentals sounding different from the typical Crystal Lake, you’ll also be able to experience Ryo’s calm nature when he raps in a clean voice.
The album then progresses with the title track True North, a piece that is even more way out of character, albeit probably one of our favorite tracks after Omega. Next up is Breathe Deep, a really calm song perfect for those who didn’t get enough of Ryo’s clean vocals, we however prefer the usual scream vocals much more, which has done wonders for so many songs in their discography. Contrary to Metro, Ryo actually sings here and doesn’t rap. To further keep the calm mood alive, Black and Blue enters, with JESSE from RIZE jumping in after the first chorus. It was an interesting song with a bit of nu metal and pop influences, most likely composed with JESSE in mind. Bluntly, the combination of the two voices didn’t work out as great as we’d imagined, since Ryo has a more energetic and sharp voice while JESSE has a more laid-back and soft voice, they’re both basically on each side of the spectrum. Swinging back and forth between the two voices put the song in imbalance.
Essentially the album True North is a work created in limbo, an experimental phase of the band if you so want to call it. It’s split between heavy metal songs and songs that lean towards rock with a variety of influences. While we did foresee the band taking steps towards a more melodic rock sound, this was beyond our anticipation. Because of the introduction of such big variety of styles, we felt like the album wasn’t as solid as the two previous albums. This has its good and bad, but in general, we truly enjoyed the album and welcome the changes with open arms! We just hope the heaviness will live on in the band’s future work and not to be phased out in exchange of new elements.
We want to thank the lovely guys at JPU Records for providing us this album.