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Crystal Lake - Helix Award winner

Crystal Lake
by Martin Knap at 27 February 2019, 11:05 AM

Before picking up their fifth studio album “Helix” I didn’t know who CRYSTAL LAKE were, but I gather they are pretty big. I think it’s safe to say that they are Japan’s biggest Metalcore band – they have recently signed with the US label SharpTone Records and have toured with big names in the genre. What I do know is what I like in modern Metal/Metalcore, and at first listen struck a note with me. The single that I’ve listened to reminded me of ARCHITECTS in that it has aggression but also atmospheric, soundscape-like parts, a big chorus that avoid being too weepy or “emo”, and of course a huge, intricate, layered sound. That’s all well and good, but can these guys write a good album and do they bring anything new to the table and?

The album starts with the heavy title song. It’s a mix of Metalcore and SUICIDE SILENCE-inspired Deathcore: part groove and Hardcore aggression and swag, and part darkness, blast beats and deep growls. It’s pretty straight-forward, but about two minutes into the song takes a strange turn – we hear the singer screaming over an electronic arrangement and heavy guitar chugs. The following song “Agony,” is also heavy, but more melancholic than the previous song. The verse is aggressive, but the shimmering synths and looping guitars melodies add a layer of sadness to it, the chorus is big and emotional. The song gets mellow and atmospheric and there is a Post-Hardcore-style buildup with synths, emotional chanting and guitars. In “+81” we hear some Nu-Metal influences, which we’ll hear throughout the album: the song has a high-energy verse, but there are also sections with LINKIN PARK-style rap vocals, after the bridge there is a kind of a Funk-rap section that goes well together with chorus, but after that come massive break-downs. It works surprisingly well.

Lost in Forever” is an explosive banger – it was chosen as the single for a reason. It has a high-octane verse that builds up tension that gets released in the explosive chorus. The song is melodic and intricate (it has a cool mid-section for example) and at the same time heavy and aggressive. This is mosh-pit ready indeed. Following that comes a softer song “Outgrow” that has a stripped-down chorus with rap vocals and a melancholic chorus, but there are also some breakdowns thrown in for a good measure. So far so good, but how about the B-side? Well, things only get more interesting from here. “Hail To The Fire” is a dark, heavy SLIPKNOT-meets- Deathcore song with a primitive, “tribal” feeling to it. The vocals remind me Corey Taylor’s style and there are even some SLIPKNOT-style ad-libs thrown in.

Devilcry” is another standout song. It has a LINKIN PARK vibe to it both in verse where the singer is rapping over a chugging riff and a bubbly synth line and in the emotional melody of the chorus. It is clear that the band is pretty eclectic, but “Just Confusing” will probably catch you off-guard, it has the vocalist rapping and singing over a Alternative Hip-Hop beat, only the chorus – which still has a Hip-Hop vibe – is played on instruments. The hooks are so catchy and it’s so tastefully executed that I’m totally down with this. The next song “Apollo” is probably my least favorite, but that tells you a lot about how great this album is, because it’s by no means a filler. The chorus has these bouncy, “djenty” riffs and just when you think it is wearing thin some aggressive Deathcore riffs and blast beats hit you in the head. It is a well written song, with heavy parts as well as an atmospheric section, it’s just that the chorus sounds a bit to saccharine to me. The album goes out with a band though – “Sanctuary” to me is one of the better songs on this amazing album.

I didn’t set out to write a track-by-track review, but here we are. All the songs are worth mentioning really, which is always a good sign. I’m not a big fan of Metalcore, Nu-Metal or Hip-Hop, but the way CRYSTAL LAKE weave these influences together in their songs just does it for me. The music sounds at the same time familiar and original, the band has a versatile sound that doesn’t collapse under its own weight. I really didn’t expect to enjoy this so much when I picked up the promo. I’m sure we will hear their name more often in the future after this release.

Songwriting: 9
Memorability: 9
Originality: 8
Production: 8


4 Star Rating

1. Helix
2. Aeon
3. Agony
4. +81
5. Lost In Forever
6. Outgrow
7. Ritual
8. Hail To The Fire
9. Devilcry
10. Just Confusing
11. Apollo
12. Sanctuary
Yudai Miyamoto – lead guitar
Shinya Hori – rhythm guitar
Ryo Kinoshita – vocals
Gaku Taura – drums
Bitoku Sakamoto - bass guitar
Record Label: SharpTone Records


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Edited 04 October 2022

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