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Crystal Sword – Old Man (Reissue)

Crystal Sword
Old Man (Reissue)
by Mark Machlay at 28 April 2021, 6:37 AM

CRYSTAL SWORD is an example of a band that seems to have been forgotten, and swallowed by the multitude of melodic death metal bands in the early 2000s and never gained much footing outside of their home country. The Ukrainian melodic death band from the city of Chernihiv was started in May of 1999 under the name BLACKEND. By the time they were ready to release their first album, “Old Man” would be released in 2003 under their new name CRYSTAL SWORD. They played a solo show in their hometown of Chernihiv in September of 2007 in which the entire program of the group was presented. This earned them performances in 2008 in Kiev at the “Tattoo fest” and in Kremenchug at the “Corrosion of Metal”. In April of 2008 the band were invited to take part in recording cover versions dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Russian thrash/speed metal band METAL CORROSION’s album “Order of Satan” with their version of the song “Lucifer”. They would then open for METAL CORRSION a month later. 10 years later, the band would release their second album “Evil Inside” with a slightly updated sound. Unfortunately, shortly after, due to various circumstances, there were few concerts from the band and they stopped playing live.

Flash forward to 2021 and the band has decided to re-release their music on various platforms to hopefully get some more buzz for a possible return to live music. Thankfully, they have also re-mastered their two albums as well, so this isn’t a simple re-release. The first of the two, “Old Man” saw the band in a much more raw form in 2003. It’s not quite sonically polished, leaning more into the “blackened” – to put nicely – part of their sound that was evident especially in the blackened death metal vocals of Dmytro Gaponenko. The album starts much like an early IN FLAMES album called “The Jester Race”, with a track simply titled “Intro”. It plays a poignant yet foreboding piano melody – shockingly similar to the main guitar riff of DREAM THEATER’s “Endless Sacrifice” - slowly adding in a simple drumbeat and bass guitar line before crashing guitar chords add the grit and revealing just a little taste of what the listener has gotten themselves into. Next track “Blackend” – an obvious ode to the band’s previous title – hits hard with creative riff work, an introduction to Gaponenko’s vocal style that I seldom hear used nowadays, and serves as a wonderful introduction to the band’s brand as a whole.

As the album gets going, you start to hear the makings of a truly talented group of individuals. By “Black and White Dreams” I can start to make out some of the vocals, despite being spoken in their native tongue and realize the language differences may be one of the unfortunate hurdles this band couldn’t quite get over to become more famous. It’s furious early melo-death in style, even venturing into power metal riffage at times. Then there is the true standout “Harvest of Sorrow” starting out with blast beats, then shows off same amazing dual lead guitar work while a heartfelt piano melody lingers in the background at times. Gaponenko even shifts his voice slightly for a more demon-like heavy death metal style on this track. Another stellar track “Mist and Darkness” featuring a heavily down-tuned acoustic guitar intro then breaking into beautiful dual lead guitar riffing. I love the vocal flares that their native language gives when Gaponenko is able to slow down and chew intro the track making him sound absolutely sinister on this track. They end really strong with the one-two punch of “Life is Like A Myth” and “Between the Sky and Water”, the former with is perfect deep black metal vocals and dark riff melodies making for a delicious atmosphere and the latter starting off strong with a speeding riff, similar blackened atmosphere and a nearly progressive metal, herky-jerky section before speeding to an abrupt but warranted ending. These guys are criminally underrated and their sound only improved on their next album, they deserve this bump of attention with a re-release and the possibility of new music or even seeing them live is something I personally am excited about.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 6

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Intro
2. Blackend
3. Black and White Dreams
4. Harvest of Sorrow
5. True Path
6. Mist and Darkness
7. Old Man
8. Messiah of Darknes
9. Life is Like a Myth
10. Between Sky and Water
Lineup:
Dmytro Gaponenko – Bass & Vocals
Victor Antonenko – Guitars
Artem Rey – Drums
Avlo Shapoval – Guitars
Record Label: Metallurg Records
     


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