I can’t stress this enough: I am NOT a fan of most metalcore. I’d say around 96% of it is just noise to me. But over the years I have found two or three bands that really resonated with me, the most recent being CONQUER DIVIDE who I still play all the time. And I think I can safely say that Japan’s CRYSTAL LAKE is now in that category. I’ve been playing their newest CD True North (out now, Artery Recordings) a lot over the past week, and each time I listen to it I find something else I really like (example: almost NO breakdowns!!)
Over the course of eight tracks, an intro, and an interlude, this band definitely taps into something. The way “Alpha” starts the record is very ambient and sounds like we’re floating on a cloud somewhere before “Omega” crashes in all assholes and elbows. The vocals of Ryo Kinoshita are way more death growl than anything his contemporaries are doing, something that works very much in the group’s favor. “Metro” showcases the musicianship and diversity of the band, and also shows they’re not afraid to push boundaries, alternating between dark and light. The same is true of “Breathe Deep,” so it’s not surprising these were two of my album standouts.
The title track hits like a motherfucking wrecking ball, with smashing riffs and frenetic blast beat drumming combined with bursts of speed. Oh, and if you like things fast, check out “Six Feet Under” which just rains power punches down on your noggin for 2:22. A quiet instrumental “Walk On Water” is like the sonic ice pack for your swollen head after that last track, and it transports me to such a calm and serene place. If I meditated I’d have this on an endless loop. Closer “Waves” once again finds Kinoshita seemingly pushing his voice to the limit, and the band delivers one of the most melodic and uplifting pieces of music on the disc behind him.
Overall, I was highly impressed with CRYSTAL LAKE and this True North album. If more bands played metalcore like this and didn’t inundate us with breakdown after breakdown I probably wouldn’t be so biased against most of the genre. These guys are definitely the exception, not the rule, and I think they are one hell of a band. I’d also be very excited to see and hear them live because there is something about these songs that keeps me coming back again and again, and I’d love to experience that in person. In the meantime I think I’ll go blast this one more time…join me, won’t you?
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Metro”, “Breathe Deep”, “Waves”, “Omega”