Hot off the Press

Crystal Ball | Dawnbreaker

by Mark Allen
– Senior Columnist —

Crystal Ball DawnbreakerPardon the pun, but you don’t need a crystal ball to know what this album will sound like. Now on their seventh release, this Swiss melodic metal band has a firmly established, easily identifiable style. Simply put, you know a Crystal Ball album when you hear it, and the band rarely (okay, never) stray far from their comfort zone. Consistency and reliability have always been the name of their game and that trend continues on Dawnbreaker.

That said, most fans agree that the band’s first two efforts were their peak, so they are the standard by which all subsequent albums have been judged. So to answer the obvious question ricocheting around inside everyone’s skull, no, Dawnbreaker does not surpass or even match those pinnacle levels. But for aficionados of that European melodic metal sound, it delivers the goods in rock-solid fashion.

Crystal Ball have always straddled the blurry line between hard rock and heavy metal and they do so here again. It is the niche in which they exist, the subgenre in which they have grown most comfortable. Powerful but polished guitars, pounding drums, strong vocals, anthemic refrains, stacked harmonies … the band checks off all the appropriate boxes to ensure satisfaction for those who believe heavy and melodic go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

The songs vary between face-hammering heaviness to head-banging hard rock to flick-your-Bic power ballads (do they still make Bics and does anyone flick them anymore?). “Skin to Skin” is the highlight, infused with a definitive ‘80s commercial metal vibe thanks to body-shaking rhythms, sexualized lyrics, and a bigger-is-better gang vocal chorus. “Power Pack” is a blistering barnburner with blazing guitars that blasts bullets of sonic fire from the about-to-blow speakers. With deliciously cheesy lyrics such as, “Like a loaded gun, I’m ready / Pull the trigger and set me free,” this slab of musical tongue-in-cheek fun hits hard, hits fast, and leaves you panting with satisfaction when it’s done having its way with you. Hell, you might even crave a cigarette afterward, even if you don’t smoke.

At thirteen tracks, you get a lot of bang for your buck, but the tradeoff is that some of the songs begin to blend together. It’s not particularly difficult to identify which tracks should have been pruned. The most glaring example is “The Brothers Were Wright,” which features a cringe-inducing play on words and questionable rhymes: “The world was wrong / The brothers were Wright / and it caused a big sensation / ‘cause they gave us aviation.” Those lyrics are woeful enough to make you shudder like an arachnophobic tossed naked into a pit of super-size tarantulas.

So while some filler-trimming would have enhanced the overall appeal of the album, the majority of the tracks are quality melodic metal that should please fans of the genre. Does this album herald the dawning of a monumental breakthrough in the melodic metal realm? No. But Crystal Ball have always been known for consistently releasing good, solid albums and that record remains unbroken.

Genre: Melodic Metal

Steven Mageney (vocals)
Scott Leach (guitars)
Markus Flury (guitars)
Cris Stone (bass)
Marcel Sardella (drums)

Track Listing
1. Zarathustra
2. Break of Dawn
3. Anyone Can Be a Hero
4. The Brothers Were Wright
5. Eternal Flame
6. Skin To Skin
7. Walls Fall Down
8. Back For Good
9. Power Pack
10. Stranded
11. Sun Came Out
12. Touch the Sky
13. Bond of Love

Label: Massacre Records


Hardrock Haven rating: 7.5/10