Updated: Mar 30, 2020
If you ever get lost in the sea of "crystal" acts (Crystal Eyes, Crystal Tears, Crystal Viper, Crystal Ball, Crystal Castle, Crystal Lake, Crystal Sword....need I go on? Ok - Crystal Dreams, Crystal Gates, Crystal Fate, Crystal Abyss, Crystal Crow, Crystal Pyramid, Crystal Sky), just remember - there can be only one true crystal master! Crystal Eyes has released consistently great albums for 20 years now, aging gracefully. For those unfamiliar to the band, imagine a tour of every single traditional metal, power and hard rock subgenre executed to perfection with 'crystal' clarity. If that sounds amazing, then "Starbourne Traveler" is the album for you.
After a six year hiatus between 2008's "Chained" and 2014's "Killer," Crystal Eyes returns after five years to renew the love of all things traditional. "Killer" would be tough to beat, having been one of the finest albums issued in 2014, but band leader/founder Mikael Dahl has been on a mission since returning to full time vocal duties. The album's first single "Side By Side" had listeners believing that CE could very well write a perfect Running Wild song (probably better than any recent RW song for that matter), but "Starbourne Traveler" is not so one sided. In fact, every song is a journey that ranges from traditional metal, speed metal, power metal, hard rock and straight up rock. It represents a tour of everything that made early metal great, absent the thin over trebled production of the era.
Though a brand new release, "Starbourne Traveler" also features a couple of classics re-recorded: "Extreme Paranoia" (one of your author's favorites) and "Rage on the Sea," both having originally appeared on the 1997 demo "The Final Sign," as well as the stunning debut album "World of Black and Silver." Both of the re-recordings retain the classic feel of the originals, with the benefit of far superior production and performance with new guitarist Jonatan Hallberg (having joined in 2017) and drummer Henrik Birgersson (having joined in 2016). Dahl hits that trademark scream at the end of "Extreme Paranoia" as if he hadn't aged a day.
The real pleasure gained from "Starbourne Traveler" is the breadth of variety. If you love traditional melodic styles of metal and rock, there is something for everyone. The real achievement of the record is that while each song can easily recall well known influential acts, it is tastefully written, executed flawlessly and is uniquely Crystal Eyes. Whether its that solid Running Wild base with "Side By Side" (and "Rage on the Sea"), the mid-80's Accept (and 2000's U.D.O.) vide on "Paradise Powerlord," the Iron Maiden guitar melody meets Judas Priest speed on "Gods of Disorder," the Gamma Ray merges with the stadium anthems of Eclipse feel on "Starbourne Traveler," or where old Autograph blends with the "Hero on Video" Freedom Call on "Midnight Radio," it is both familiar, yet new - tasteful without the rip off.
This collection of songs has an uncanny ability to evoke memories of very simple recollections, those bursts of emotions felt when getting my first taste of Iron Maiden ("Aces High"), getting blown away by the overwhelming power of Judas Priest's "Freewheel Burning," the excitement of seeing Dee Snider pop out of a manhole on stage when seeing Twisted Sister for the first time at age 16, the day I first pushed play on Running Wild's "Under Jolly Roger" album. Any release that has the ability to draw out that much emotion from first listen is pure genius.
"Starbourne Traveler" brings all the power, emotion, passion and pride that made up all the fundamental reasons why I chose metal as a music and a mindset. Crystal Eyes is a ceaseless and remorseless ode to everything great from the past. With top notch modern production, the band proves that old school is ageless. As the listener will hear Mikael Dahl belt out in the opening track "Gods of Disorder": "take me back...to the time...when the metal invasion ran the ground..." If everything I heard as a child was true ("metal is a fad"), then how do you explain 34 years of fandom with no end in sight?
Label: Massacre Records (order album here)
Release Date: December 6, 2019
1. Gods of Disorder
2. Side by Side
3. Extreme Paranoia (Re-Recorded)
4. Starbourne Traveler
5. Corridors of Time
6. Paradise Powerlord
7. Into the Fire
8. In the Empire of Saints
9. Midnight Radio
10. Rage on the Sea (Re-Recorded)
Check out the video clip for "Side By Side" here:
Check out the lyric video for "Starbourne Traveler" here: