Released: 2006, Cruz Del Sur
Destiny’s End and Onward were two straight up, traditional metal bands who released some of the best metal of the last 10 years. Both bands had a lot of similarities in my eyes, not just in style but because both seemed to get bigger label deals (Metal Blade and Century Media) due to the rise in popularity of power metal, though neither fit into the mold, while both had members who had at least been able to make a name for themselves elsewhere, James Rivera in Destiny’s End and Toby Knapp in Onward (Michael Grant had also made a dent by being in New Eden). Then, both bands split-up far too soon, before they could reach their prime. So when I found that Dan Delucie, guitar player from Destiny’s End, had a project with Michael Grant, singer from Onward, I was psyched and excited to see what both could come up with.
What were the two musicians able to come up with? What I can only consider a pure heavy metal experience with no gimmicks or tricks, just great songs, riffs, and melodies. In forming the band and creating this album Michael and Dan recruited Melanie Sisneros (ex-Iron Maidens, ex-New Eden, plus she was in Sinergy for about a week), and Craig Anderson who played with Seven Witches on their YEAR OF THE WITCH album. Musically the band don’t really pull out any surprises, the style fits into what Dan and Michael had been doing with Onward and Destiny’s End but there’s something special about these two teaming up. There’s some extra oomph here, something that can’t be put into words, the way the two split much of the writing duties (both have writing credits for lyrics and music on just about every song) really shows. One thing that has to be mentioned is that Michael Grant’s voice is as impressive as ever BUT he is somewhat of an acquired taste. The way in which he sings can sound rather odd at times, I mean, he sings properly but there’s something about his voice that took multiple listens for me to get into, even with this album, it took a while for me to fully appreciate his melodies. The production is strong, warm, and the guitar sound is somewhat reminiscent of Onward’s REAWAKEN album.
The metal anthem, “Above Mere Mortals”, opens the album with a bang. The song maintains a bouncing, chugging riff, with intermittent melodic fills while Michael Grant’s voice soars overtop before the chorus where things really start to cook. The guitars follow through into the chorus but the drums really pick up, the snare drum, ride cymbal, cymbal crashes working together intermittently to create a beat for the extremely catchy and impressive vocal melody. “Slaves to the Metal Horde” generally follows the same pattern as “Above Mere Mortals” though its lyrics are loosely based on HG Wells War of the Worlds, they read more like an ode to metal, especially with the line “The metal will never die as long as we are alive”. This particular track is as memorable and catchy as “Above Mere Mortals” but works a slightly bouncier and marching rhythm, some of the vocals taking a very rhythmic, chanting approach (mostly the “Ever strong, ever hail, never fall, never fail” line). “Rise of the Red Crescent Moon” is the first of three songs on the album without writing credits from both Dan Delucie and Michael Grant (“The Last of My Kind” and “The Passing” being the other two). “Rise of the Red Crescent Moon” takes up a much slower pace but it doesn’t become brooding or drone on and on, the song is carried by a few big riffs, and lots of great vocals.
The big epic track comes about half-way into the album, the title track being a slow building ode to the story “In the World’s Dusk” by Edmond Hamilton. The track opens with a simple, short, acoustic guitar line that is repeated multiple times, slowly being added to until it gives away to slower, almost brooding electric guitar riffs. The vocal melodies sounding almost forlorn while the guitars and mood continue to build eventually reaching a crescendo that I might argue is on par with some classic metal moments. I’ll leave out any comparisons lest someone thinks I’m insane and fails to check out the album because of it. For the last half or so of the album the band continue to throw out great song after great song, songs like “The Path Once Chosen”, “The Great Devoid”, “Await the Champion”, and “The Passing” are undeniable in their quality. The entire album is filled to the brim with quality, no filler, no waste of time interlude tracks, no opening instrumentals, just pure heavy metal with sections that have a purpose.
Crescent Shield may be new in the sense that this is their fist album, but they are not new in their experience, which clearly has lasted over a decade for most of the band members, and they are obviously not new considering their mastery of the heavy metal experience through song and verse. (Could that sound anymore pretentious?)