“In Dark Places” Boxed Set by Crimson Glory

Artist: Crimson Glory
Title: “In Dark Places” Boxed Set
Label: Metal Mind Productions
Release Date: 10/5/2010
Genre: Melodic Progressive Metal
Rating: 5/5

Perhaps someone is paying attention to the words that I am writing down for the website and I say this based on my closing statement in the original review of Crimson Glory’s remastered “Transcendence” album. As I finalized my thoughts on the crushing release I thought aloud saying “these special edition reissues are nice but I think that a comprehensive boxed collection would be perfect since there were only four albums in total”. That being said, I proudly announce that a career comprehensive boxed set of all the four Crimson Glory albums is now available with “In Dark Places – 1986-2000” and it is something very worthy of your hard earned dollar. Before I move deeper into my overview of this amazing collection I wanted to guide those newer and perhaps even younger fans of the Power Metal side about what kind of band Crimson Glory actually was. Musically there was a lot going on with them and visually the stunned the senses with mystical garb and face concealing silver masks. The songs were powerful and well put together while their singer was nothing less than enigmatic. His name was Midnight and he led the band for three albums before departing and while they would eventually continue without him, it was never quite the same for their fan base. “In Dark Places” celebrates the entire sum body of work that the band did and gives it to you in a beautiful package. PiercingMetal.com reviewed the remasters when they first came out and since our thoughts about each release are pretty much the same, we edited those texts only slightly and have re-presented them here. Enjoy.

“Crimson Glory”: Originally released by Roadrunner Records in 1986, the self-titled debut of Sarasota Florida’s Crimson Glory is a welcome addition to any Progressive Metal fans music library. Now made available as a special limited edition reissue/remaster from Metal Mind Productions, those who have longed for such a release to see the light of day will be really happy and those who had only heard of the band in references from others can see just what made them so special in the first place. Crimson Glory was a band who combined powerful melodies and technical musical ability with soaring lead and harmony vocals along with an image that would be as impressive as it was imposing in the visual sense. Sporting full-face silver masks with the exception of the singer whose mouth was exposed, the band was an intriguing mystery on the live stage and like KISS was never photographed without their signature masks. Musically they call us back to a time when Progressive Metal was still in its formative years and should you be a fan that focused on early Queensryche and Fates Warning then you would definitely be on board for the kind of presentation that Crimson Glory brought to the table. Their debut release was self-titled and this worked with a name as impressive and standout as theirs was. They offered up an intricate level of playing ability which was not as common in the bigger Rock scene of the day as Glam Rock was in full swing and when Crimson Glory first came on the scene many of the popular bands were carbon copies of the band who did the same exact thing before them and so on etc. Instead Crimson Glory chose to be different and sing about subjects which were far deeper than a soap opera meant for the Sunset Strip. We find this in tracks like “Valhalla” and “Dragon Lady” where the group takes us to different worlds full of mysticism and atmosphere. Fronted by the mysterious lead singer Midnight, we walk through realms of shadows and time and look forward to each adventure. There are “almost ballads” on the debut such as “Heart Of Steel” which is a slower number in guitar riffing but has the glass breaking high notes that showcase Midnight as one of the better purveyors of such a style in the genre of the day.

There has often been comparison of him against that of Geoff Tate and Rob Halford so you just knew he was belting them out to be thought of in such distinguished company. On guitars the band found Jon Drenning (lead) and Ben Jackson (rhythm) who were both accomplished technicians on the axe and one can tell just how much by the impressive flair shown during the lead breaks and riffing across the album. The solid drumming was care of Dana Burnell while bass was handled by Jeff Lords. The songwriting found on the debut was also strong and even some twenty two years after release finds songs like “Azrael” and the amazing “Loft Reflection” sounding better than some of the Progressive Metal of today. “Mayday” comes as perhaps the fastest and heaviest track on the release and it blazes by with double bass drumming and high pitched screams. The original album closed with “Lost Reflection” and this is a moody and dramatic piece that one can just envision being done live with smoke and lights adding to the effects and vibe. With the remaster we are treated to a bonus track called “Dream Dancer” and this was apparently a b-side release by the band since its not on the original CD or vinyl. We find lyrics for the tunes as well but only one photograph which is a group shot. Given the bands overall image I had expected a little more in the way of photos for the reissue but none were provided. This is an amazing debut by a band that had so much potential and yet only delivered two full albums with this lineup. Its music that will leave you wondering “who were those masked Metal heads?.”

Track Listing: Valhalla, Dragon Lady, Heart Of Steel, Azrael, Mayday, Queen Of The Masquerade, Angels Of War, Loft Reflection, Dream Dancer – bonus

“Transcendence”: If there was ever an album that I was dying to find a remaster done for then it would most certainly be Crimson Glory’s sophomore release “Transcendence”. Originally released by Roadrunner Records in 1988 this album is nothing less than a Progressive Metal masterpiece from beginning to end, and when Metal Mind Productions announced their plans on reissuing it I was very excited to say the least. The Florida band had been impressing fans of Progressive Metal for a couple of years now with an intense musical and visual presentation that began with their self titled debut album “Crimson Glory”. The band sported big hair and instruments and wore silver masks to conceal their faces but beyond the imagery we found out just how good they could play and it made the debut one of the strongest of its kind for the day. “Transcendence” takes us to the next logical step as the bands explorations into the realms that they first presented us with on their self-titled album grow ever more interesting and involved. The album, while musically along the same lines as their first (thought perhaps a little more locked in and melodic), found one major change in their visuals. As the early photos demonstrate, the band wore full face silver masks and only singer Midnight had his mouth exposed in order to sing with more ease than having it covered. By the time “Transcendence” was released the band had discovered that performing with faces covered was quite hot and difficult to do so they would move to donning half face masks that were very reminiscent of something out of the Phantom of the Opera. Each of these new masks was slightly different from each other and with it I felt that it added new levels of drama to them as opposed to taking any of it away. Thinking back on the original album I remembered that I never owned this release on vinyl and instead had only been able to find it on cassette tape back in the day and according to research it had never been on CD until around 2001. As an album this has remained one of my favorites for some twenty years and it’s easy to see why when it begins as “Lady Of Winter” brings you into the bands new music. The heavy opener finds the band at the ready while singer Midnight sings at registers that would make glass break under normal circumstances. It’s a great lead off to the bands heaviest number ever, “Red Sharks”, with its thunderous double bass drums and riffs that make you reach for your nearest air guitar. The chorus is rather catchy here as well for a heavy number and that’s not always the case. “Painted Skies” is a bit of a ballad and its imagery throughout the song both beautiful and sad. The bands first real ballad was the actually rocking number “Lonely”. A video was done for this one and it remains the bands most popular song to this day in terms of its reach. Clearly the band was onto something with the way that they delivered the whole package.

In 1988 we were finding the slow decline of Glam Rock and the beginnings of Grunge Rock and it was bands like Crimson Glory that were continuing the charge in a different manner alongside groups like Fates Warning and Queensryche. Their fans were many and perhaps they were even inspiring new bands such as Dream Theater to some extent since those guys would have been forming out their own ideas around the time Crimson had formed. “Masque Of The Red Death” deals with the epic story by Edgar Allan Poe and yes you do hear a lot of Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave” track in this one. I never took it as a copycat thing but more as the two bands using the same Middle Eastern riff in their respective songs. The song-writing to me was much stronger this time around and the realms that the band was singing about and the emotions all the more enticing when it came down to it. Sadly, this would be the last album for drummer Dana Burnell and guitarist Ben Jackson who would choose to leave the group and pursue other things. With their replacements also came the abandoning of their signature masks and the continuation of the musical direction that many had grown fond of. “Strange And Beautiful” would be a very different album and receive very mixed opinions from their fans. A bonus track, the single version of “Lonely” is included and the video for the song as well which you can view on your PC or MAC. Fans that own the original remaster might be a little annoyed about that since the previous issue of the album did not feature this video content. “Transcendence” is a must have release for fans of Progressive Metal and especially those who have wondered about this particular band over the years. Take your journey to dark places of an eternal world where dragons rule the painted skies for with Crimson Glory at your side you will never be lonely.

Track Listing: Lady Of Winter, Red Sharks, Painted Skies, Masque Of The Red Death, In Dark Places, Where Dragons Rule, Lonely, Burning Bridges, Eternal World, Transcendence, Lonely (remix) – bonus, Lonely (video clip)

“Strange And Beautiful”: When “Strange And Beautiful” was released by Crimson Glory their existing fans would find that the band had shifted gears just enough to leave them wondering how this was the follow up to the killer and very influential album “Transcendence”. The reason being simply that this releases predecessor was a Progressive Metal meets Melodic Metal masterpiece and it still holds up today against many of its peers of the time but when it came to “Strange And Beautiful” they would find the band moving closer into experimental Melodic Hard Rock avenues. There were also two additional changes that no one saw coming and the first would be the departures of guitarist Ben Jackson and drummer Burnell while the second would be the abandoning of the groups signature silver masks. Drums became the job of Ravi Jakhotia (from India), and he would introduce new feels and patterns to the groups style. Musically, guitarist Jon Drenning was quoted as saying that “not everything was going to be about fabled lands and dragons”. The title track flows like a modern day Led Zeppelin Prog-Cruncher, while “Love And Dreams” sounds more akin to what you would find Cinderella doing at the time yet it worked incredibly well. “The Chant” finds them performing a song from their friends in Outlaw Blood and again its more Hard Rock anthem than that of the once Prog-Metal smiting we were used to getting. While change is often good I think that when this originally appeared that many of the musical illustrations they used really ended up alienating more of their fans than bringing them in. I recalled my own initial hesitation about it, but now some sixteen or so years later, I’m able to find this an interesting listen. “Dance On Fire” to me was the weirdest track and more suited to a Glam Band than these guys, but “Song For Angels” would show them capable of a touching ballad and find the listener reaching for their lighters to hold them high but in these times it might be a simple flame graphic or animation displayed on one’s cell phone. Personal favorites for me were found in “Deep Inside Your Heart” for its big and resounding chorus and “In The Mood” as well as the title track since those supplied the heavier aspect that much of this left me wanting back in the day. Listening as a music fan today made me realize that in my youth that I was quite guilty of writing off a group for simply too much change – a trait I have very happily lost as the years passed by. The band felt this was more a “Psycho Sexual” release with lyrics that were more carefree than dark and ominous. The changes introduced here can be compared to the like of Queensryche who surprised fans with “Rage For Order”, a definite departure from their own beginnings. For it’s release year of 1991, Crimson Glory was not only a band dealing with their own lineup and musical change but the changing times of the industry as Grunge Rock began to strengthen it’s foothold and snare audiences of all demographics. All in all, “Strange And Beautiful” is an interesting and worthy part of any Metal collection. The album’s closer “Far Away” is a perfect ending for the piece as the credits roll up and we return once again to our day. Don’t let this one pass you by a second time because like a fine wine this album gets better with age.

Track Listing: Strange And Beautiful, Promised Land, Love And Dreams, The Chant, Dance On Fire, Song For Angels, In The Mood, Starchamber, Deep Inside Your Heart, Make You Love Me, Far Away, The Chant (video clip) – bonus

“Astromonica”: The masks had gone away with the album “Strange And Beautiful” and the sun had risen on their former singer Midnight, who decided to leave the group just after its release. They would replace him with Wade Black – a powerful vocalist in his own right, who would bring an excellent level of intensity to the group at the same time. Drummer Dana Burnell was also gone and in his place was Steve “Doctor Killdrums” Wacholz (who many know from Savatage). Despite these changes Crimson Glory was able to remain a supremely powerful Melodic Metal force albeit a more refined and determined one. No gimmicks and costumes just incredible levels of Metal and musical expression. From the original lineup only Jackson, Drenning and Lords remained and they would surely not let the band fall by the wayside with mere membership changes. With Astromonica the band would show that they were far more than image and instead proficient players. Black’s growling voice and intense presence raised the level of aggression in the band and provided them with a little more edge than they had in the past. Songs like “War Of The Worlds” and “Lucifer’s Hammer” would present their fans with a Crimson Glory that was back and determined to take no prisoners. With Black at the helm and the former Savatage skin basher, I felt that Crimson Glory became more of a Metal band than they ever were with their earlier releases or perhaps a more mature, and angrier version of the band that we enjoyed with the first two recordings and the experimental previous album. “Transcendence” was heavy, but more early Prog-Metal and still remains my favorite since this was the type of Metal that I was very big on when it was initially released but aside from this album “Astronomica” is a worthy component to any fans music collection and in some sense the perfect follow up album . The remaster includes a bonus CD of rarities (live & demo) with expanded liner notes. The live tracks are from 1989 and capture the original lineup early in their career and these all sound great. Since we never found an officially sanctioned live album being released by the band, we will have to enjoy these five tracks as the closest thing we will get to a live EP from the band. If you are someone who found the group appealing when they first burst on to the scene then this is something that you should seek out for your collection because at the time, the genre of Melodic Power Metal was still new and seemingly boundless.

CD1: March To Glory, War Of The Worlds, New World Machine, Astronomica, Edge Of Forever, Touch The Sun, Lucifer’s Hammer, Other Side Of Midnight, Cyber-Christ, Cydonia

CD2: War Of The Worlds (remake), Astronomica (demo version), Touch Of The Sun (demo version), Dragon Lady (live), Eternal World (live), Painted Skies (live), Queen Of The Masquerade (live), Lost Reflection (live).

Since all of the albums have been remastered there is an even greater power in their melodies and each release is designed for maximum volume enjoyment. Listening to them all once again for the first time in a single sitting I was impressed with how well this material has stood up over the years. At times you might find yourself thinking this a new and exciting band as opposed to one that surfaced more than twenty years ago. The original releases had booklets included but with the boxed set we find all of these put together to offer the listener a supreme book that is sixty pages in length. It’s loaded with lyrics, period applicable photos and some liner notes. I liked how this was presented but felt that with it’s being a special edition, that they should have found even more photos included. It’s packaged in a slip case that when you slide all the albums into in order forms a mask visual. The cover is a slightly foreboding image of five masks which was at one time the bands signature motif. When these editions were originally released there were talks about an original member reunion but it didn’t pan out the way that it had hoped to and sadly in July of 2009 the Metal world would lose singer Midnight who would pass away from illness. I read once how a DVD of classic era material was supposed to come out but was shelved so let’s hope someone finds interest in issuing it for their fans. At present the band is working with singer Todd LaTorre and hopes to tour soon. Having heard samples of his singing on the bands MySpace page I can safely say that the spirit of Midnight lives on with his voice and the future of the Crimson Glory music is promising. The only down side for this release is that it bears a pretty hefty price but when one considers that you are getting four very hard to find albums in one package it might make it worth owning all the more. It is also limited to 1000 copies so get it while you can.

Official Website: http://www.officialcrimsonglory.com/

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