There’s rarely any such thing as a guarantee, especially in the music industry. It’s an industry that dictates success based more on exposure and sales than actual quality of the music – after all, one would think that if it sounds good, it’ll sell. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case as some of the best sounding artists tend to be very niche or fly under the radar as they lack mainstream appeal. Japanese metalcore outfit Crystal Lake are one such band that seem to fly under the radar, at least in the United States, as they’ve been around since 2002 and just now seem to be gaining traction. As they gear up to release their much-anticipated new album, the band shows off their continued desire to innovate their sound while keeping a loyal fan-base engaged by staying true to their metalcore roots and building off of them in the right way. The result is True North, the bands most creative, diverse and mature release to date that should pave the way for more exposure.
[tw-toggle title=”About Crystal Lake”]
Label: Cube Records / Artery Recordings
Release: November 30, 2016 (JP) / December 2, 2016 (US)
Connect: Facebook | Twitter
Purchase: iTunes | Google Play
Instead of relying on the typical metalcore formula, Crystal Lake have consistently kept things fresh throughout their career and that is exacerbated tenfold on True North. They’ve opted to showcase distinct styles throughout each song as elements from nu-metal, alternative rock and metal prosper while the base is built on blistering metalcore tinged with creative, ambient electronic setpieces. The album opener, “Alpha”, starts out with the aforementioned soundscape intermixed with melodic guitars before descending into ultimate chaos. “Omega” showcases the bands frantic pace with blastbeats while maintaining a melodic composure even with the exclusion of clean vocals. This approach ends up working in the bands favor as it helps the songs that incorporate singing become even more appreciated and is a testament to frontman Ryo’s vocal prowess. Further showcasing Ryo’s vocal ability, “Hatred” sees the band delve into nu-metal territory with its combination of fast paced riffs and rap-esque verses and vocal samples.
After such frantic and crushing opening, Crystal Lake slows things down with “Metro”, which is perhaps the bands biggest step outside their comfort zone and ultimately one of the highlights of True North. The guitar riffs thrive in the progressive metalcore realm, drawing apt comparisons to the likes of Erra or In Hearts Wake, showing off the extraordinary diversity in sound and talent from guitarists YD and Shinya. It’s also a melodic driven song that switches up the vocal delivery style as the verses and chorus is half-screamed, half-sung. “Breathe Deep” is another shining example of the band diversifying, this time around opting for a softer, ballad like song featuring all singing, which is not typically expected from Crystal Lake. This addition is one of the clearest cases of evolution for the band as the singing incorporates well within the mix, never giving off a feeling of being shoehorned in or blatantly utilized as an attempt at going mainstream.
The biggest drawback of this record, like many other outstanding metalcore albums released this year, lies in its length. The album is in total a standard affair coming in at 10 tracks, but two of those tracks are interludes (“Alpha” and “Walk on Water”) while one of their most blistering tracks “Six Feet Under”, barely clocks in over 2 minutes. Due to this, the record at times feels as if it’s missing that “it” factor and that there will inevitably be a deluxe edition down the line that incorporates some B-Sides. Despite this, True North remains an album worth every metalcore fans time. With its ambience, heavier emphasis on melody and the inclusion of more singing than past albums, Crystal Lake is sure to be catapulted into the limelight with this release.