Crystal Ball - 'Crystallizer'

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Crystal Ball - 'Crystallizer'

Here you have the old guard who've fallen on hard times and never quite re-found the attention they deserve.

Much like you have separate divisions in football (or soccer for our American friends), so the world of Rock can be categorised in the same way. At the top, you have the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest reigning supreme, and consistently challenging for titles and silverware. Further down the elite league, bands like Kamelot and Nightwish strive to operate at that same arena-sized level, catching the eye with their new flashy styles of play and giant-killing exploits, but without ever really suggesting that the big prize will come their way soon. Slip down a division, and much though the glitz and glamour begin to wane, so the honesty and integrity both begin to shine ever brighter. Here you have the old guard who've fallen on hard times and never quite re-found the attention they deserve; bands like Uriah Heep or indeed those like Switzerland's Crystal Ball, a band who've racked up ten albums in roughly twenty years and have built up a faithful and sizeable following, but who have never quite broken through the glass ceiling into the world of glamour ties and mainstream press coverage.

If you've ever frequented lower division football matches, then you'll no doubt be aware that the entertainment levels are just as high as any big game and often much more rewarding. Hence it is said with no derision that album number ten from Crystal Ball is every bit as entertaining and exciting as a night in with Maiden, Andi Deris era Helloween, or Black Sabbath (admittedly in their Tony Martin wilderness years when they recorded some of their best work, but no one cared...), without ever suggesting that it will take this honest, hard-hitting outfit to those heady levels of acclaim.

Just like the good old days when Hard Rock, Heavy Metal and much else in between was viewed as one and the same, Crystal Ball are a band who can surge a song full of keyboards ('Crazy In The Night'), snarl and sneer with intent ('Curtain Call') or combine Bluesy roots with heavier intentions ('Satisfaction Guaranteed') and still make them come out as winners each and every time. Sadly, however, they'll always remain more "pie and Bovril" than they are sumptuous prawn sandwich.

Steven Reid

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