ALBUM REVIEW: Crystal Lake – Helix

Release Date: February 8th 2019
Label: SharpTone Records/Cube Records
Website: www.crystallake.jp
Facebook: www.facebook.com/crystallake777
Twitter: www.twitter.com/crystallake777

Rating:

Tokyo’s Crystal Lake are stalwarts of the Japanese metalcore scene, and they’ve been on a steady ascent overseas for some time now, culminating in their sixth studio album, ‘Helix’.

The title-track, or title-interlude, pulls us in with robotic sounding voices, and then the ferocious ‘Aeon’ gets the record off to a very strong start. With mechanical drumming as well as mini industrial interludes, it feels like a cluster-fuck of some kind, but there’s a thrill to be found here.

‘Agony’ offers a little more of this, albeit with a more straight down the line approach, and a multi-layered vocal section which is a good way of dividing the song. The anthemic ‘+81’ is also demonstrative that Crystal Lake have many more strings to their bow.

But, unfortunately, in spite of the strong start, ‘Lost In Forever’ is where it starts to wear a little thin, even with the softer vocal lurking in the mix. Sadly, if you strip away the production techniques and some of the left-of-centre ideas, this could be almost any other metalcore band. The groove, guitar riffs, and the overall dynamic remain the same for the vast majority of the record.

There are enough ideas to turn your head such as the interlude ‘Ritual’, a rugby-style chant led by vocalist Ryo Kinoshita, and ‘Hail To The Fire’‘s infectious, tribal hook of “Zomba, zomba.” There’s also the curveball that is ‘Just Confusing’, which centres around the sound of a phone vibration and is led by a glitchy IDM backbeat. This is an experiment that pays off well, and the raw emotion stemming from Kinoshita‘s screams in the verses is another plus.

The album continues in the vein it has done for the most part, with plenty of atmosphere, groove, and tasteful guitar licks, but in the second half it all tends to blend into one, with little deviation from what’s typically offered. Tracks like ‘Apollo’ and ‘Sanctuary’ really don’t give you very much to take away from them.

Crystal Lake clearly have plenty of dexterity and talent in abundance, but sometimes you’re left wishing they could flex their left-field muscles a little more. To say that ‘Helix’ is a bad album would be totally unfair, but at worst, parts of this album leave a lot to be desired. Including more songs such as ‘Aeon’ would be a big improvement for sure. The metalcore scene is only getting more and more crowded, and you’ve got to offer more than occasional glitchy bits in order to truly stand out.