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(51:31, Black Widow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Damned Warrior 2:40 2. 474 Anno Domini 5:06 3. Somewhere-Nowhere Battle 4:37 4. Loth-er Siniell 5:01 5. Violet Crystal Phoenix-2 6:42 6. Dark Shadow 7:09 7. Damned Warrior 2:46 8. Heaven to a Flower 6:13 9. The Dobe and the Bat 7:21 10. 474 Anno Domini 2011 3:56 LINE UP: Myriam Sagenwells Saglimbeni – vocals; instruments Giulio Capone – bass
Prolusion. The Italian band CRYSTAL PHOENIX started out as a one-woman band, the creative vehicle of composer and instrumentalist Myriam Sagenwells Saglimbeni, which in subsequent years developed into a more regular band project. Their self-titled debut album was originally self released back in 1989, and has later been reissued on three occasions.
Analysis. Crystal Phoenix is a band that will probably be best recalled for the first reissue of their debut album. Four years after its initial release their self-titled production was picked up and reissued on CD by (then fledgling) Black Widow Records. It was, in fact, their first official release. Due to that alone Crystal Phoenix has ensured itself a place in history, as Black Widow Records has grown to become a label held in high regard by many music fans worldwide. As for the album itself, it is a strange little creation. The original recording and production quality leaves quite a lot to desire, and when opening tune Damned Warrior kicks off in a manner very much reminding of early 80's New Wave of British Heavy Metal, we get to experience the majority of the negative aspects of this production all in one go. The overall sound is closed in and thin, and the electric guitar sounds like it's performed by a poorly configured synthesizer. The song itself is a fairly engaging instrumental however, and it's an energetic romp that is compelling despite the recording and production qualities. Following this, the album takes a sudden left turn towards medieval music, with acoustic guitar, harp and (possibly) lute taking the lead alongside Myriam's controlled yet emotional lead vocals on 474 Anno Domini and Somewhere-Nowhere Battle: two compelling pieces of middle age inspired folk music, elevated by the powerful vocals and clever use of wind synthesizer for the former, a nice flute motif and careful percussion details for the latter. Two fine companion pieces of folk music of the kind that I surmise will find favor among fantasy fiction enthusiasts to a much greater degree than aficionados of medieval folk music. Loth-er Siniell expands the canvas utilized further by including cello and a symphonic backdrop, the latter by way of keyboards I surmise, a fine display that should find favor amongst quite a few art rock followers as long as they don't mind the retro DIY quality that is a common denominator throughout this production. The original albums ends with two longer songs that shift the stylistic focus back towards a more metal oriented sound, and while both of them are fairly compelling creations, the recording quality in general and the guitar sound in particular will severely limit their overall appeal. Especially in this day and age when people expect even a home recording to sound reasonably professionally made. This 2012 reissue also sports a total of four bonus tracks. The 1989 demo versions of the album tracks are all rather interesting, if for no other reason than to be able to experience the metal oriented songs performed with a much better sounding electric guitar, and personally I felt that these demo versions were at least as enjoyable as the ones that were subsequently recorded for the album itself, the guitar sound the main reason admittedly. The 2011 Version of 474 Anno Domini didn't make that much of an impact however, altering this composition to become a vocals and piano driven affair backed by steady bass and drums only showcase that this is a creation demanding a specific atmosphere and instrumentation to really work out and that the 2011 version isn't the proverbial it.
Conclusion. Crystal Phoenix’s debut album will most likely be a production for the especially interested to seek out. The songs in both sets of styles explored are fairly well written, but as long as the recording and production quality is as it is, this will limit this album's audience quite a bit I suspect. But if you enjoy 80's metal and medieval folk music both, and don't care that much about recording quality, this disc should suit you fairly well. And I suspect that being a fan of fantasy literature will be an advantage too.
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