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Classic Review: Crimson Glory - Transcendence
Crimson Glory

Label: Roadracer Records
Year released: 1988
Duration: 50:51
Tracks: 10
Genre: Heavy Metal


Review online: March 3, 2003
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
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Rated 4.45/5 (88.94%) (85 Votes)

When you talk about all-time great metal albums, a lot of names get batted around: Queensryche, Judas Priest, Metallica, others could be added. One name deserves to be on this list and is often omitted: Crimson Glory, and if there needs to be justification for why, look no further than this album. Easily on a par with "Painkiller" or "Operation: Mindcrime" as a melodic metal masterpiece, "Transcendence" is often overlooked.

Crimson Glory emerged in about 1986 with a self-titled debut album that got no domestic distribution at all, and so the Florida masked metallers remained unknown in their homeland, even though the CD went down a storm in Japan and Europe. "Transcendence" was their first release with major label support (Roadracer was a major label back then) and the first to get American distribution, and at the time it caused quite a stir.

What’s in the offing here is traditional melodic metal in the Iron Maiden/Queensryche vein with dual guitar harmonies, fantastic lead work, and vocals that have never been equaled. John Drenning proved here beyond argument that he is one of the great songwriters of the metal world, as every track is a stellar example of shining steel: cut, polished, and gleaming. From pounding opener "Lady of Winter", through the blistering speed of "Red Sharks" and the power-ballad "Painted Skies" Crimson Glory reign supreme over lesser metal acts with hooks and melody to spare. But that’s just the opening three songs, then they take it up a notch with the furious "Masque of the Red Death" followed by the epic, pounding "In Dark Places" with its haunting melodies and awe-inspiring solo work. Jeff Lord’s bass playing should also be singled out, as his grooving rhythms are a big part of the unique CG sound.

"Where Dragons Rule" hammers through the speakers with a marching rhythm pounded on the drums, then "Lonely" slows things down with an almost commercial sound. (They made a video for this one, obviously it was seen as the most accessible tune). "Burning Bridges" is another balladesque number in the vein of "Painted Skies", but more sprawling and progressive. "Eternal World" is another barn-burner, fast and furious with guitar work that will make your jaw drop. The title track is an all-acoustic number that fades gently into silence.

The real crowning glory of this album, beyond even the fantastic musicianship, is the pure steel voice of legendary frontman Midnight. With all the smooth vocal charisma of Geoff Tate in his prime and an upper range that still sets the standard fifteen years later, no one has ever really equaled his performance on this album. A lot of tenors, especially ones with high upper ranges, sound nasal – not Midnight. The man had the finest tone I’ve ever heard, at times he really doesn’t sound human at all. The only singer who recently even comes close is the singer for Lost Horizon, and even so, it isn’t the same. Wade Black, the singer employed for the reunion album "Astronomica", aquitted himself well, but no one can really touch the all-powerful midnight. On "Eternal World" alone, he laid down a vocal performance that will make your head spin.

After "Transcendence" the band was in limbo for about 2 years, and in that time Nirvana killed metal. The follow-up "Strange and Beautiful" was an amazing album (no matter what anybody says) but it’s bluesy rock and roll approach was waaaay out of the metal ballpark and most certainly not what the CG fans were waiting for. The album was, and still is, reviled by the fans, despite its quality. After that, Crimson Glory dropped off the radar. Today, this album is no longer produced, and not available anywhere I looked. In this day of re-issues and re-pressings of 80’s metal classics, it is criminal that this superlative album remains underappreciated and unremembered save by the very few.

Standout Tracks: Masque of the Red Death, In Dark Places, Eternal World

More about Crimson Glory...
Review: Astronomica (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Crimson Glory (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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