Released 14th October 2011 on Lion Music
Neo-classical metal has been a bit of a hit and miss effort of late. Strong releases from Concerto Moon have been counteracted by poor releases from the leading starlet of the genre Yngwie Malmsteen, so it’s with some hope that the debut effort from Polish guitarist Boguslaw Balcerak’s band Crylord can restore the balance for what is a favourite genre of mine.
The initial signs look good with a steady backing band behind guitarist Boguslaw Balcerak of some highly talented musicians from his native country, whilst vocals come from Carsten ‘Lizard’ Schulz (Evidence One, ex Domain) and former Malmsteen vocalists Mark Boals and Göran Edman. Impressive names for sure and it’s easy to see how Boguslaw got them onboard as the quality of material is superb.
Whilst some will compare to Malmsteen purely because of the genre and a couple of names involved, the keener ear will hear an original sound. There are some power and some small progressive elements here and there, but this is mostly about excellent songs with great performances.
After a brief orchestrated instrumental opener “Blood Of The Prophets” kicks into life with the ultra powerful title track. Big riffs, fleet fingered lead work and a heavy dose of melody make this a great start. The guitar work is as good as you’d hope for in this genre whilst the vocals of Carsten Schulz are arguably the best stuff I have heard from him yet making great use of layering on the choruses and a nice gritty delivery on the verses. This heavy, driving sound is heard elsewhere on the likes of “Warriors Moon” which has a nice change of tempo and very strong personality, and again within “Beyond The Walls Of Sadness” which is home to a slower tempo and more epic sound.
The neo-classical sound is really at the fore on “Bard’s Tale” which is a track fans of classic Malmsteen and early Symphony X will warm to immediately. This track has an absolutely scorching solo that reminded me a little of Balcerak’s label mate James Byrd. Beginning with a nice melodic theme before progressing into a very fluid workout with a great melodic edge and killer vibrato, this is one of the many tracks that you’ll be playing over and over.
Schulz and Boals combine well on the likes of “Face Of Destiny” which its melodic verses and soaring chorus which, again, home to a glorious solo from Balcerak. This guy really does have a great feel and the fast paced instrumental “The Heretic” is a perfect showcase for the mans skills. But listen beyond the guitar work and you hear excellent keyboard inflections and orchestrations from Łukasz Dybalskand whilst drummer Marcin ‘Kanclerz’ Kwasny hits the skins with as much skill and gusto as many of the big names.
For Göran Edman’s vocals Boguslaw has composed a couple of commercial stompers in ‘Grave Of Love’ and ‘Angel Of Divine’ which are perfectly suited for the melodic commercial sheen of Edman’s voice. The former is a quite fast paced and Edman pulls out all the stops on the vocal front, the chorus is perfect for his voice. The latter track is darker, with a more majestic feel to it and again very infectious, a grittier vocal from Göran works well on the verses and you get the impression he is enjoying singing this material.
The 8 minute “Valley Of The Dead” sees the tempo taken down to a doomier Sabbath meter for the most part. It’s a nice change of pace and you can see an intimidating atmosphere developing in the live arena with this one. Schulz turns on the darker side of his voice. The track picks up in tempo in the middle section which paves way to another sublime solo from Boguslaw, one of his best on the album. The solo on this one is one of the most extended on the album- the opening bend and descending lick which will raise the hairs on anyone’s back and makes the rest of the fretboard skills compulsive listening.
Next up we get some respite in the melodic themed tonality of power ballad “When The Time Has Come” which is a duet between Boals and Edman, a sweet track with an anthemic chorus and heart wrenching solo from Boguslaw.
The album closes with the dark magnificently titled “The Healing Hands Of Destruction”. Beginning with a wealth of movie score type orchestration before the track moves into a neo-classical charger, this one will blow your head off. Vocals come from all 3 vocalists who combine well yet the power of the delivery is to die for. A fitting closing number.
“Blood Of The Prophets” is in a word awesome and ranks as one of the releases of the year. After the horrible taste in the mouth left by Malmsteen’s dire “Relentless” release, this is a reminder of when done right how strong neo-classical metal is a genre. Although to recommend it to neo-classical fans along would be selling it short as “Blood Of The Prophets” will appeal to a fans of classic/trad metal and power and progressive metal (think early Symphony X) genres as well.
Aided by an excellent production and mix and superb artwork this is in many ways the complete package.
Boguslaw Balcerak’s leaves us in no doubt of his guitar ability with this album, but more importantly he’s leaves the lasting impression of a musician that can pen incredible songs and is a name that I hope you will be hearing a lot more from.
Rating – 95%