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Crystal Skull – Ancient Tales

Crystal Skull
Ancient Tales
by Rachel Montgomery at 16 September 2020, 7:23 PM

CRYSTAL SKULL is a power/speed metal band debuting its first album. Inspired by fantasy elements, “Ancient Tales” is a concept album dedicated to creator Claudio “The Reaper” Liveras passion for Teutonic Mythology and 80s and 90s metal. Since forming a band was difficult, this former guitarist for BLACK RAVEN and bassist for VIOLENT ASSAULT played all the instruments and composed the songs himself. It took him the better part of a decade, from 2008-2015 to put the project together. With the time and energy Livera put into this album, I’m excited to hear the final product.

The Book” is a string-sounding intro with a jangling guitar riff. The opening narration open this album beautifully as a fantasy album. The story is intriguing; Livera sounds like an old wizard narrating about how he found the last book of ancient tales. When he opens the book, there’s a burst of speed metal instrumentals that sets up the tone for the rest of the album beautifully. The track ends with echoing, ghostly voices that claim to be warriors fighting the darkness. Already, I’m hooked on the story.

Land Of The Dead” is the first full song on the album. It opens as a traditional speed metal song with contrasting speeds on the guitars. The echoing vocals are spot-on with the genre. The production is a little muddy, which gives the album a vintage feel. Honestly, I’m not a fan of mimicking older styles like this since it mushes the sound together. If the instrumentals were clearer (and a little tighter – but I’m nitpicking), this would be a perfect power metal song. As is, it’s a pretty solid power metal opener that’s sure to hit some nostalgia points.

While it’s a rocking, uplifting album, it’s not without its problems. “Stormaxe” has a clearer beginning. The guitars are crisp, though I’m personally not a fan of the electronic, videogame-like sound of power metal’s high-pitched guitars. Vocally, on the previous track and this one, it’s not great. Livera isn’t exactly an opera singer, or even a trained singer – his forte is guitars and it shows here. The guitar work is great. However, I think he should bring in vocal collaborators for his next project. This would also give his concept album more character; he could introduce new narrators and points of view by bringing in different vocalists. That aside, I think his most powerful vocal style is when he delivers echoing choruses. It makes his songs more epic and draws me into the theme.

Through the middle of the album, the songs sound like typical power metal songs. The long ballad, “Tears Of The Night” has a standard call-and-response chant in the chorus that breaks up the speeding melody well, but other than that, it soared like the rest of them. Not that it’s bad, it’s a good song. However, I think interludes would really help with the thematic elements of this album. Specifically, short tracks of narration from “the wizard” character at the beginning would spice up the album. I also absolutely love the beginning of “The Eyes.” It comes in roaring and doesn’t stop. The chorus is biting and relentless, too, just like it’s supposed to be. “Die By My Axe” is also a speeding, fun ballad with a biting chorus and some good intensity.

The album closes with jangling guitars that mimic the opening. “Lake Of Dreams” breaks with the rest of the album to bring the work home. The slow end is a great bookend for the beginning and brings the album home. The building instrumentals are engaging and beautiful, reminiscent of a folk song. However, this is a good example of why I think Livera needs to bring in a singer!

Overall, I love the concept of the project. I can hear the passion. I see this as a great beginning that has nowhere to go but up. As far as the solo aspect of the album, I would highly suggest bringing in collaborators for future works, especially the vocals. The instrumentals are spot-on, but I really don’t think singing is Livera’s strong suit and unfortunately, it shows. However, if you’re ever questing through Stormheim in “World of Warcraft” or playing another fantasy videogame, crank this up.

Songwriting: 9
Production: 7
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. The Book
  2. Land Of The Dead
  3. Stormaxe
  4. Crystal Legions
  5. Tears Of The Night
  6. The Eyes
  7. Die By My Axe
  8. The Last King
  9. Lake of Dreams
Lineup:
Claudio “The Reaper” Livera – vocals, guitar, bass, drums
Record Label: Underground Symphony Records
     


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Edited 29 September 2020
 

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