Review: “Helix” by Crystal Lake

Formed in Tokyo Japan in 2002, Crystal Lake haven’t taken the scenic route to their 5th studio album. The quartet currently comprising vocalist Ryo Kinoshita, lead guitarist Yudai Miyamoto, rhythm guitarist Shinya Hori and drummer Gaku Taura followed up August 3 track single “The Circle” with “Helix” in November. Both releases appeared in the bands native Japan only while the rest of the World had to wait nearly 3 months to get our collective hands on it as the band switched labels for Global Distribution from Artery Recordings to SharpTone Records.

Title track “Helix” is an 11 second piece of atmosphere setting with a computerized voice that bursts into first song proper “Aeon”. A furious drum workout of frenetic blast beats with chaotic Slipknot esq riffs and undercurrent of programmed electronics deliver and audio pounding before it’s Limo Bizkit inspired electronic voice returns for a closing speech against a DJent backdrop. “Agony” has an electronicore introduction that once again bursts into frenetic energy with pummelling drum patterns and DJent inspired Progressive Metalcore riffage. There is a heart of melody underneath the ferociousness which is carried off in the same way that Architects manage to achieve it in the likes of “Doomsday”. Indeed the melodic bridge to the final fade shows some improved clean vocals and a bigger range than shown on the bands previous releases.

Then “+81” appears. It’s rap-screamed vocals inter spliced with chants and lyrics about bitches and sake is at stark contrast to the opening pair of tracks. It is kind of fun and musically packs plenty of punch and groove but it also kills off the atmosphere and vibe that the opening tracks created. “Lost In Forever” has a classical Metalcore sound with some glorious lead flourishes adding a bright and melodic tint to the more aggressive rhythm guitar layer. The lyrics are far deeper and the addition of a female voice adds gravitas to the closing. “Outgrow” begins with some melodic guitars and clean vocals that build up into some classic melodic Metalcore riffage for the first verse. A spoken word rap that builds into a rap scream falters in the first pre-chorus and works better as a styling in the second. It’s a shame because musically the song works really well, with a dark undercurrent and tension to a slow burn of a song.

The pallette cleansing “Ritual” is a 26 second feedback soaked chant that acts as a fine intro to “Hail to the Fire” and may serve as a live intro or set break at shows. The latter is a pile driver of a tune with a dark synth layer, DJent tinged chunky riffs and a master class kit performance. The unclean vocals are phenomenal and the slow down to a floury of almost downtempo breakdowns with accompanying pick slides is fantastic. “Devilcry” then drops the tempo for a piece spoken word of poetry that builds into Nu-Metal introspective lyrics and driven guitars. There is an oriental videogame soundtrack quality to the harmony that overlays in parts and while a couple of bursts of speed rapping threatens to derail proceedings it actually works really well on repeated listens.

A repeated mobile phone vibrating buzz brings “Just Confusing” into a synth backed primative drum loop. Ryo Kinoshita then delivers an off kilter rap that sounds like something from Justin Johnson of Gift Giver fame. Music flows from beneith like a melodic Cane Hill F-Side track left over from their recent acoustic EP and it’s just like the title says. “Apollo” thankfully gets back with the program with some Progressive Metalcore bite with an undercurrent of melodic beauty that lifts everything to a higher level. From the previous track to this one is night and day in terms of quality. Samples add something to the mix and the production is spot on. “Sanctuary” finishes the album in style with a song that combines all of the Progressive Metalcore elements that the band have in their locker to create a fine piece of musicanship.

“Helix” is an album that will divide. There is half a phenomenally good album here and on the dark side of the moon there is half an album of experiments of which some work and some fall flat with a “wtf is this doing on here?”. The problem is that the experiments should grow on you with multiple listens but sadly they don’t. Instead you’re left with a sense of “what have I just heard?” and not in a good way [7/10]

“Helix” by Crystal Lake is out now via SharpTone Records

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