Artist: Crystal Lake
Date of release: February 15th, 2019
Record Label: Sharptone (Outside of Japan)
For Fans Of: Crossfaith, Architects, While She Sleeps, Soulfly
Next Gig: Not in Aus, and probably not for a while...
"Implant the lord your god, enhanced the human race
Sequenced for more perfection, give into system" - Aeon
Japanese Metalcore outfit Crystal Lake are back and have FINALLY graced this known universe with their long awaited, third, full-length studio album ‘Helix’. Released through Sharptone records ‘Helix’ is yet another milestone for Crystal Lake as it showcases their versatility as a band, even more so than they have already proved in the last two releases. Third time is definitely the charm in this case, and I definitely believe they've channelled their true sound with this release.
'Helix' starts off with a robotic voice, eerily proclaiming "Everything living, must spiral into dust - Helix" - Helix, being a term used in physics and mathematics to represent a curve or spiral in three-dimensional space; hence, ‘spiral’ into dust; the mere 12-second intro perfectly prepares us for the overarching theme of the album - inter-dimensional, hyper cyberspace-type themes; and sonically and lyrically, this is maintained throughout.
A strong transition straight into 'Aeon' (though in the video clip they're the same song; to clear any confusion) the second single from 'Helix' and boy did it blow me the fuck away when they released it.
'Aeon' featuring A.J from Issues, is just fucking ridiculous. Ryo's vocals are showcased insanely well here and it is clear that Crystal Lake are a force to be reckoned with. I can still confidently say that this is by far, not only my most favourite release on the album, but also my most favourite (international) release of the year. Gaku Taura is an absolute weapon of mass drum-struction and completely slays this song. The drums truly really carry the body of 'Aeon' - like all drumming rightfully should, but this has taken the role of the drummer to a whole other level. We're catapulted through three separate waves of: double time that halves time to build up the pre-chorus and then when the chorus breaks through, it half times yet again and completely opens up the chorus; complimented by a groovy as fuck guitar riff that brings in that classic Crystal Lake sound. This has definitely given the song a great deal of justice and has made it truly stand-out in the album.
'Agony' begins strong and remains strong. The chorus is incredible and has some post-hardcore feels throughout. In unison they scream “We lie, we lie until the end, inside we’re trying to pretend that we know we’ll never know.” And it just feeds that feeling of hopelessness, which is one subtle element of the overall theme. The hopelessness of humanity as whole, I assume in this instance.
Something about this album makes me believe that there is an underlying allegory of some sort, but I honestly couldn’t put my finger on it.
So, '+81'. This is the code to dial out internationally, in Japan. I doubt this is about making a call to Australia, to say they're coming for a tour - so maybe this could signify talking to an outer world, or other worldly communication? Though the culture is different in Japan and can sometimes be considered ‘another world’ I do think this is deeper than that. The theme of aliens, multi-dimensions, multi universes, Ryo is channelling something far beyond our mere human comprehension. Maybe even his own connection to other perceived worlds or universes?
'Lost In Forever' was the third and final single release before the release of the album. It is much more melodic and a lot of raw emotion really shines through on this track. "Birth of emotion and death through the flood. I've never felt alive, seeking death through your blood" emotionally raw lyrics open up this track, making it the perfect choice for the third single as it showed us that what we were being served wasn’t entirely blow-your-face-off type heavy.
The ending really wrapped up the song well, it stops as the clean guitar comes in and a faint female voice, gently sings “we’re lost in the moment, that we've called forever” and the song breaks back into the chorus with a half-time that wildly expands the song and sends it off like we are the befallen King at a Norse Funeral.
Yet another subtle-yet-massive beginning as ‘Outgrow’ comes in. The guitar sounds very worldly and, dare I say, folk-esque? The use of harmonious and melodic vocal layering over the single guitar has been done exceptionally well and it makes for a brilliant build. The lead guitar comes in with yet another epic riff, which then spirals down and thins out into an electronic drum track. Ryo shows off his vocal dynamic with some sharp, spoken word - almost rapping, and then comes back into a massive, expansive chorus; an epic trade off between the two elements of the song. Not so much of a rollercoaster like the other songs, but I feel like something like this was incredibly vital for the overall dynamic of the album. I believe it was almost genius to put this song here, for the sake of the album flow.
I have to say, ‘Ritual’ is a sick interlude and was placed perfectly after a few slow songs, which helped bring back the ripping angst we saw at the beginning of the album. Ryo screams an acapella rap verse, repetitively, over and over and more aggressively each time. It builds slowly and creates a ritualistic feel. It's as though he is chanting - staying true to the title - and it prepares us for the imminent chaos that will soon unfurl before us.
We are welcomed warmly - truth be told: scoldingly - with heavy distorted guitars and animalistic chants and screams throughout ‘Hail To Fire’. Ryo states that in this song, he was “heavily influenced by Sepultura and Soufly”. This was also my initial thought and he has done an incredible job at capturing the essence of Max Cavalera in 'Hail To Fire'. I cannot deny that throughout the entirety of the album, they maintain a certain level of epic that has just really thrusted them way ahead of their previous releases in terms of production and composition. Crystal Lake shine the most through ‘Hail To Fire’ and ‘Aeon'; and they maintain a sufficient level of heavy and melodic, without drowning out or becoming uninteresting. I am constantly on my toes with ‘Helix’.
Soft guitars gently come in once more, as I hear that faint female voice pan through my eardrums and we are treated again to a brief and emotively captivating spoken word “I’m sure as hell I’m ready to die” – exposing, raw and emotive, ‘Devilcry’ is just simply magnificent.
The feminine voice is layered throughout the mix, adding a charming and alluring dynamic, creating a magically eerie feeling. The melodic chorus reminds me so much of Architects; which is never, ever a bad thing at all.
Once again, the perfect balance of heavy and melodic.
‘Just Confusing’ comes in next and it was definitely that – just confusing.
There are many layers and effects, but Ryos emotion is just bleeding through this track. I found myself clenching my teeth and hold my breath with every note. You can definitely feel his confusion and frustration too, it’s translated so well in the exceptional vocal delivery. Although I do like 'Just Confusing' this is definitely my least favourite because lyrically, it doesn’t match the rest of the album; and I'm very big on lyrics and their structure and placement. Don't get me wrong, sonically it matches, but it’s confusing… and in saying that I almost feel like it might have been done on purpose. Aside from personal preference, it sits well with the overall flow of the album - another well placed track.
'Apollo' was the first single from Crystal Lake, the one that blew us all away and let us know what was in store for us. It starts off with some twangy guitars, Ryo screams "We're made from nothing, so take it away, take it away again!" which explodes into another brilliant classic Crysal Lake lead riff that is just ULTRA EPIC! Layers of synth are strategically used to fill the song and expand it further. This song encapsulates everything this album is. The futuristic digital effects, epic half-time endings and this monstrous, groove-laden riffage is everything I need in life. “YOU'RE NEVER GONNA TAKE ME UNDERRRRRR!” Aaaah, so damn mother-fucking good - HELP I'm in a library again and I might just crowd-kill some high school kids.
I feel a bit shaken from all this shifting - almost as if I'm tearing through multiple dimensions with the help of 'Helix' as 'Sanctuary' opens with some angelic, airy tones and once again that faint, angelic feminine voice again. I feel like the feminine voice is representative of an archetype of some sort. Hey, maybe even the Cyber Angel archetype from the legendary Yu-Gi-Oh game cards.. anyone? Okay, cool. I’m just a nerd; but it’s probably the most fitting idea, given the context of the album. The soft, feminine element provided definitely assists in setting the imagery for the futuristic, cyberspace theme.
It comes to no surprise that the ending of this album is probably one of the most epic that I’ve ever heard in my short life of being someone who thoroughly enjoys epic and over-the-top metal/metalcore (also the over-use of the word: epic). It’s just incredible when the vocals come in again and we can hear what sounds like the whole band, or a hell of a lot of vocal layering sung in unison - it's almost uplifting. Like, melancholic hopefulness.
Overall, 'Helix' has blown my expectations completely out of the water. Or more so, completely out of the lake, if you will… (sorry, I had to).
Though there won’t be any Australian tour in the works, as stated by Ryo “We’ve gotten no offers so far, but to go to Australia is one of my dreams” we NEED to start a fucking petition because I need to mosh to this album outside of my living room with a bunch of sweaty strangers in a dark, dingy room, the way the good lord (or whoever set the rules of the universe) intended.
Crystal Lake have reached far beyond anyones expectations with this release, combining just the right amount of heavy and melodic showcasing all kinds of vocal versatility from rapping to spoken word to several forms of screaming and provide us with one of the most satisfying releases of 2019; so heres to it!
Would You Go And See Them (WYGAST) 5/5
Personal Enjoyment: 10/10