Read the full Media Review ...
Sonic Cathedral 20 June 2015
One of the things you often fear with a second release is that it won’t live up to the first. You get that a lot for a variety of reasons. Bands often put a lot of time and effort into the first release, if it meets with positive responses, they’re pressured into cranking out a quick second to take advantage of the first, often with disappointing results. Well, that didn’t happen here. I loved the first Crimson Chrysalis release and was eagerly awaiting the second. Vocalist Rene van den Berg sent me some initial tracks for this release, seems like back during the Roosevelt administration and I waited throughout what seemed like much of the Cold War for the rest. But, they’re finally here and damn, it was worth the wait. The first release featured the finest track I’d heard in years, Blood Diamonds, and I wondered how they could produce anything to compare with it. Well, they took the long road, the hard road and the really time consuming road. But, that road ended with one of the finest total packages I’ve heard in some time.
How to describe it, well, that’s a problem. There are a lot of things I like in this style of music, not all of them are captured here; there’s no Death metal, no real dark Gothic, no Doom. Of course, there’s no Polka or rap either so it’s a trade off. What there is is a combination of a lot of things I consider required to achieve a total package. You certainly can’t fault Rene’s voice, one of the finest in the genre IMO. Course, that’s just me, some folks think the Beiber is over the top. But, if you require symphonic components, you will have a hard time beating this. If you like choral work, got it, check. If you like additional featured vocals, well, you’re gonna love this. Lyrics, well, lyricist Esther Slabbert knows her way around a verse, course, being a fellow shrink, one would expect nothing less.
It’s also hard to classify some releases, and this one is especially hard. If I was looking for a word, the word might be “BIG”. I was looking at the credits page from the release and it reads like “War and Peace”. You get the feeling half the continent of Africa was involved in one way or another. I don’t know half this many people on FaceBook. But, it gives you an idea what was involved in the creation of this work. Of course, with that many inputs it’s not hard to understand why the production took so much time. That and the fact that Rene’s day job keeps her on the road to more places than most Americans could name in an afternoon, some of them not on the “Millionaire’s Guide to Exotic and Fun Filled Dream Vacations” list. Fortunately, our lovely vocalist seems to have an inborn talent for finding the well hidden Yacht Club so things aren’t all that bad, but, it does make staying on task a challenge.
Well, on to the specifics. There are 12 tracks and they cover a wide range of styles and approaches, we’ll only look at a few. Of course, what appeals most to me may not coincide with your interests but believe me when I say there is a LOT to listen to here, a lot to interest a wide variety of listeners. Some, like Surrender and Sacred Vow take the term beautiful to a new meaning. Others like Burning Fire with Fire, Soul Stalker, Fear and Raven make sure you understand that CC can rock. But what you get with a lot of tracks is a hook, something that returns to haunt your musical memory after the CD is done. In fact, that’s a strength of CC’s music in general, they have more hooks than a Bill Fishing tournament in the Florid Keys. I haven’t been able to get the theme from Deo Volente from their first release out of my mind now for years, not matter how much Vitamin V I take to correct the problem. I have the same problem with The Raven from this release.
The band related a focus for the work in general, “A central theme on the album is grace. We wanted a title that reflects grace, not only in our lives and our music, but also displays something of our infinite wonder of grace all around us. “Enraptured” seemed the obvious choice, not only because it describes our own, intimate relationship with the music, but the rhythm of life as well.
Well, there are several tracks that absolutely need to be addressed. The first two are tracks done with guest vocalists. Elegy features a guest spot from one of the finest names in the genre, Andrea Casanova from the Spanish band Rainover. Lyrics are in English and Spanish, the lyrical focus is “the insanity and sadness of humans’ insistent commitment to destruction, when faced with our differences.”
In war and pain / we’re blind, insane
Driven by fear / by loss and shame
Till hope is gone / nothing remains
A second classic, Burning Fire with Fire, features American vocalist Jessica Mercy from Anaria (note, I’ll be covering the new Anaria release in the upcoming weeks). It’s hard to pick a top track on this release but this one may be a winner. Mercy is overwhelming, you get the addition of 5 African drummers to provide an “African” tone to the sound. This may very well be the sequel to Blood Diamonds, and, again, the hooks are everywhere.
I cast the bones / I search the night
I draw the power into the light
I find the future, I change the past
My dance of power, my spell is cast
Ain’t no sound known to man that can match the sound of two primer vocalists of this caliber. But the vocals, the drums, all that is only part of it. The symphonic is as good as it gets, there’s sufficient metal to keep you on the dance floor, pretty much everything. Pure classic.
It’s hard for me to get past those comparisons to Blood Diamonds. The Raven is another that brings that “African Gothic” theme back for inspection. Here the band contrasts the beauty of Africa against the brutality that has historically been a part of that landscape. No one has ever done it better. The sound is desperate, there’s pain in the music, but one that is set against an overwhelming symphonic. A choral component adds to the track, but the message is pure Africa:
When the silence grows / where children whimpered
We stand as one in our belief
Now we will know that every whisper / becomes the tide our ravens’ grief
Africa’s justice a buried stain / Blood be the witness washed in the rain.
Lyricist Esther Slabbert talked about the track: “ The Raven is my song for Africa, it express my sadness, anger and frustration at my beautiful continent”. It’s a poignant message.
One of the more interesting tracks is Virgin Death. It’s a remake from the first release, but it goes in a totally classical direction. You get strings introducing the track and a completely classical rendition of something that was very different the first time around where it was a rocker. A nice treatment.
The final track is another that brings back memories, at least for old guys like me. The track is the old Alice Cooper rocker Poison. I’ve faded out to this song on more than one hedonistic evening, dressed and undressed, alone and involved. But Alice, snakes, bats and everything, never sounded like this. This is where Rene reminds us that this African vox is something special. The track rocks, but here you get a symphonic that Alice couldn’t have imagined. Poison indeed.
It would be sacrilege not to address the production aspect of this release. Rene and Esther aren’t the only ones here. They tell us, “the whole album was recorded and mixed in South Africa. This time around, however, the album was mastered by Grammy winner, Ted Jensen from Sterling Sound in New York, known for his final touches on some of the world’s biggest artists like Within Temptation, Halestorm, Evanescence, Delain, Muse, Norah Jones, Madonna, Green Day and Dream Theatre, to name but a few.”
If it sounds like this one is a big one, you’re right. We don’t get a lot from Africa but this one puts the continent on the Femme Metal map in a big way. Now, all we have to do is get Rene out of the damn Yacht Clubs and on the road with a band, and make her available. Can’t happen soon enough.
Back To Media Reviews