Vengeance - 'Crystal Eye' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     June 12, 2012    
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A great Metal album.

Where to start with this review? It’s listed as Vengeance’s ninth studio album but is effectively made up of Chris Slade’s Steel Circle AC/DC covers band with Slade himself on drums, ex Alice Cooper guitarist Keri Kelli, bassist Chris Glen (ex MSG) and sole surviving Vengeance member Leon Goewie on vocals. The only other Vengeance connection is with Timo Somers (son of the late long time member Jan who sadly passed on in January 2011) guesting on guitars. With the majority of the music and production handled by Michael Voss (Mad Max/Bonfire/Casanova) plus his co-writing credits with Leon, it has that slick, smooth, melodic sheen synonymous with Mr Voss’ work and I feel the traditional Vengeance elements such as their charm and humour coupled with the odd surprise instrumentation has been sacrificed.

Having said that, this is still a terrific album, particularly the title track ‘Crystal Eye’, written incidentally by ex member Arjen Lucassen whom I’ve previously enjoyed meeting. It has all the hallmarks and great arrangement of his Ayreon project and is a majestic song full of atmospheric keys, rhythmic bass and pitch perfect tonal guitar melodies. Equally as good is the ballad ‘Missing’, well written by Voss with lovely Spanish guitar embellishment and a beautiful harmony solo coupled with Goewie’s passionate vocals. Elsewhere you have the hard driving Rocker ‘Me And You’ with Slade’s metronomic drumming, ‘Bad To The Bone’ heavy and full of pounding rhythms with the familiar Goewie growl atop an undercurrent reminiscent of Bonfire.

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The Michael Voss influence is again apparent on ‘Shock Me Now’ as Goewie sings with Voss-style phrasing different to anything previously in Vengeance. A hard and heavy number remarkable for an arpeggio strewn solo and Goewie’s screams although his voice has definitely lost some of its smoothness over the years. ‘Five Knuckle Shuffle’ (semi-suggestive?) has some great stanza singing and Michael Voss style harmonies mixed with a dirty guitar sound whilst ‘Desperate Women’ has a heavy crunching guitar intro before segueing into mainstream driving Metal with more impassioned screams from Goewie.

‘Barbeque’ is the only nod to the past as it’s quite tongue in cheek and features the first modern day reference to Facebook in its lyrics as far as I’m aware. It also has a familiar Bonfire undercurrent with music by Hans Ziller. The surprise song on the album, however, has to be ‘Whole Lot Of Metal’, written by former Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin and keyboardist Geoff Nicholls with Steve Marin. I don’t know how it came to Voss’ or Goewie’s attention but it’s a traditional Rocker different from Voss and Ziller’s compositions. Also worth mentioning ‘Promise Me’ is a semi-ballad that has a gorgeous melodious guitar tone and a nice fitting tribute to Jan Somer ends the album with a previously unreleased live solo showcasing his clean and fluid picking style.

Whether or not Goewie tours as Vengeance with this line-up remains to be seen but taken in isolation this is still undeniably a great Metal album.

Carl Buxton

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