Released: 2012, Ravenheart Music
Go ahead and add South Africa to the burgeoning list of countries sporting female-fronted symphonic metal bands. Crimson Chrysalis hail from Pretoria, South Africa, scene of Winston Churchill’s escape as a captured war correspondent in the Second Boer War (Steve Harris would be proud that I managed to fit a history lesson into a metal review!). Founded in 2010, CRIMSON PASSION CRY is an album two and a half years in the making, released in 2012 but being pushed out to the press and media in 2013. The patron label of female-fronted metal, Ravenheart Music picked the band up after hearing songs from this album. Consisting of four members, the band is steeped in musical knowledge, with each lending contributions to the album.
The focal point of course is front-woman Crimson Chrysalis, also known as René van den Berg. Unlike many female-fronted bands that employ gruff male vocals, Crimson Chrysalis handles most of the vocal duties while the infrequent male vocals are complimentary rather than contrasting. Thematically, the album deals with life issues such as anger at the world, relationships, and oppression. In this sense, the band leans more progressive in their lyrics. Opening track “Angels & Demons” incorporates the symphonic elements, particularly in the keyboard work and features a more upbeat chorus.
CRIMSON PASSION CRY is an album that weaves plenty of slow and melancholic tapestries, but there are some heavy tracks as well, like “Fuck Off And Die”, which shows the bands angrier side. Adding the sum parts, Crimson Chrysalis sounds like a combination of Nightwish and Within Temptation without sounding exactly like either one. Van Den Berg’s vocals are quieter, more soothing, and mid-ranged than the genre leading bands but either not using, or capable of the upper registers. The only minor quibble that I have is that there are too many slow, piano laden ballads on here with faux keyboard orchestra in the background. The album could have benefitted with a more balanced inclusion of heaviness to go along with the balladry.
Overall, this is an impressive debut because let’s face the facts, it has to be. With an innumerable and growing list of bands playing this style, carving out a branch of fans is only possible with high quality songs, some originality and talent. Crimson Chrysalis has these elements, and while this is not a perfect album there is enough potential here to carry the band higher up the ladder than many other female-fronted bands. Nightwish and Within Temptation fans will almost certainly enjoy CRIMSON PASSION CRY.