Back in 2016 when they released breakthrough album True North, Japan’s CRYSTAL LAKE were a little speck on the tech metal scene. In my review of True North I predicted the album would “propel CRYSTAL LAKE into the metal stratosphere”. The band did indeed progress into the greater metal realm, with worldwide tours and a slot on the main stage at last year’s Tech Fest. The band are slowly but surely getting bigger and gaining momentum and new album Helix will most certainly launch the band to wider audiences. Compared to its predecessor, Helix is a real tour de force with its ferocious consistency.
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! springs to mind when AEON kicks in. The programmed effects are spot on in this song and Helix as a whole. The opening minute has everything; blast beats, blackened passages, deathcore moments and dark TED MAUL moments. The sound is HUGE. AEON has already surpassed anything CRYSTAL LAKE have done before. So much happens yet it all flows seamlessly, but nothing prepares you for the slamming deathcore riffs and beats and the relentless tech metal at the end. Unbelievable.
Next track Agony is a bit more of a ‘typical’ CRYSTAL LAKE track (think Omega from True North with more melodic moments). The drumming and programming are once again insane, yet the ending is unexpectedly but welcomely soothing which enables you to process the brutality of the album so far. The rap returns in +81 but it’s executed perfectly making the track a disgustingly fun listen. There are some FAITH NO MORE-esque passages with the funky bass and seductive vocals. This is a real party metal anthem and will be stuck in your head for days.
By the time Lost in Forever bludgeons your ears it’s become clear CRYSTAL LAKE are sounding more focussed and mature with Helix and this track continues the brutality but with a more melodic slant. The jumpy riffs sound very much like the energetic guitar work of THE ROYAL which makes for another song to bounce to. Something a bit more unusual happens with Outgrow, with its FAITHLESS-esque passages and the slower pace, but it’s good to catch your breath during a high-octane album.
With its big ol’ swagger of a riff and the distinct vocals, Hail to the Fire becomes a bit of an unforgettable track. There is a real groove straight out of KILL THE KONG before it lapses into more slamming deathcore territory. Lots more interesting snippets happen in Devilcry which is a solid track with a catchy motif. The brutality and melodicness are perfectly balanced here making this track a bit of a dark horse to be Helix‘s best track.
Just Confusing is more ISSUES than CRYSTAL LAKE but somehow it works! The chorus could easily upset some old school BRING ME THE HORIZON FANS (if you get what I mean). CRYSTAL LAKE can even master the new wave of emo and I’m not even mad. The bouncy, tech riffs return with Apollo along with the ferocious drumming. It’s not a particularly memorable track but it’s a fun track all the same (especially with the DISTURBED moments…you’ll see what I mean).
Sanctuary makes sure Helix gets the storming send off it deserves. A straight-up, no-nonsense song, the urgent energy of Sanctuary gets the job done. The riffs are stratospheric and the hypnotic end brings the album to a dramatic close. The crossover appeal of CRYSTAL LAKE cannot be ignored. This is their secret weapon and the biggest threat to their contemporaries. Every metal style they attempt to capture they expertly execute. The quality of their work just keeps on getting better and better. What will the band achieve by their next album? One thing’s for sure, you won’t want to be late to the CRYSTAL LAKE hype.