I have to admit, it took me several spins before Crystal Breed's music found it's place, as I had some problems overcoming the first vocal section on the album. A little voice in my head kept telling me there's something wrong with these vocal parts. On the other hand, I could go totally bananas on the fine technical progressive metal, with a humoristic, zappa-esque note.
Crystal Breed is a German progressive metal outfit that released it's second album; Barriers, five years after their debut The Place Unknown (2011,see review). The band's line-up remains quite consistent, founders Niklas Turmann ̶ guitar and vocals ̶ and Corvin Bahn ̶ keyboards and vocals ̶ are still at the helm and drummer Thorsten Harnitz is a consistent member. Only bass player Michael Schugardt saw himself replaced by Nico Deppisch for the new album.
Due to the impressive instrumentation, I eventually survived the first vocal section. Now after some spins I realize Crystal Breed just set me off on the wrong track, for the continuation of the vocal aspects are quite OK. The spoken words aspect during The Brain Train, in combination with the impressive technical skills of both the guitarist as well as the keyboardist are without a doubt matched by the funky jazz bass and powerhouse drumming. The Brain Train turns out to be not so bad at all, and that is an understatement. Barrier Of Ignorance is the piece de resistance of the album, at least in my opinion; a fine technical composition that shows a blend of the instrumental extravaganza of Panzerballett and the aforementioned Zappa related stuff. The song holds strong bass lines; one of them particularly, but also some calypso elements and power metal parts. The glue that keeps the song rolling are the strong piano parts that form the basics of the track. Liar To Yourself and Dying Stars are more down to earth compositions. Where the first one shows elements of Swedish prog rockers A.C.T., injected with a shot of metal, Dying Stars however can be seen as the ballad of the album; piano based, solid vocal parts and the obligated guitar solo. After the reasonable quietness of the previous song, the power is cranked up again, this time in a mood changing eight minute epical track No Escape. A song that balances acoustic emotional parts with strong metal riffs and the occasional retro sounding Hammond organ style keyboard. Like Dying Stars, Memories Of... is a ballad-type composition. This time the piano is the favoured instrument, which is accompanied by a string section. The mid-section is a bit of a weird one, a very soft percussion, a piano part that gently gains on volume. When the acoustic guitar takes over and transcends into an electric one, the song re-gains my interest. But all in all this is a strange composition. The two songs that are left, The Castle and A Prisoner Of The Present, are fairly “regular” progressive rock songs. Not bad, but also not really standing out. Regarding the earlier tracks on the CD, the album's end does not come anywhere near those tracks.
Barriers leaves me with mixed feelings, the vocals are not more than fine, sometimes perhaps too high for the vocalist, other times quite amusing. The more Zappa inspired compositions are interesting, but the rest is just above average. Nevertheless the instrumental aspect of Crystal Breed ends up to be very positive, but overall it is kind of stuck in the middle.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Yvonne Kremers-Vermeulen)
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