Crystal Ball - Deja Voodoo

Crystal Ball Deja Voodoo cover
Crystal Ball
Deja Voodoo
Massacre Records
2016
7
Crystal Ball have been a melodic yet biting and occasionally heavy band reminiscent of a more power metal influenced Jaded Heart or a grittier Axel Rudi Pell. Led by guitarist Tony Castell (formerly in Krokus) for years they had the benefit of featuring Mark Sweeney, who’s lately been working with Michael Voss in a variety projects and has since 2012 been replaced by Steven Mageney, who’s a little grungier, but fits the bill pretty nicely as well as changing the bassist spot as well a couple of albums back. This ninth album of theirs comes just a year after “Liferider” and it’s their overall ninth, so I was a little curious as to how good it could be with minimal time to prepare it… plus the fact that I always considered the output of the Swiss, as being a little hit n miss.
 
“Deja-Voodoo” is actually pretty neat. Both the opening track and the record itself… (with a couple of misteps, however). The opener itself is a gritty muscular mid-tempo that wouldn’t feel out of place in an Axel Rudi Pell album. Obviously Mageney isn’t as clean as the guys who sung there, but he still has some respectable pipes that he puts to good use.
 
“Director’s Cut” almost treads “Helloween” territory, with some extra speed and a great chorus.
 
“Suspended” falls back a bit between tempos, with a nice syncopated rhythm and works well, like everything else, complete with its sing-along wow’s :D
 
“Never a Guarantee” ads a splash of Gotthard at their latter stages, but obviously always sounding a bit rougher because of Mageney’s vocals, who however feels completely in command and in truth may be a better fit than Sweeney (who’s a good vocalist – make no mistake)…
 
“Reaching Out” takes a bit of a back seat and lets guitars run amok for a bit in the middle, but sounds a little “lazier” with its chorus etc… a typical “anthem” that feels a bit half-backed.
 
“Home Again” is the obligatory ballad and possibly the millionth song about “being at home” it’s OK, but you’re not gonna drown in a river of tears because of it and I had a hard time reaching for my lighter…
 
“To Freedom and Progress” has a syncopated rhythm, a biting slightly eastern riff and it’s decidedly more “metallic” and while I was doubting about its viability, its melodic Gamma Ray bridge/chorus enhanced by the good singing “sold it” to me along with the nice guitar harmonies.
 
“Time and Tide” again falters a bit, with a lazy chorus that feels almost like another verse, but at least doesn’t prompt you to skip it altogether.
 
“Without a Net” is an interesting case with its Def-Lep answer-response sort of chorus that sounds like something old school PC69 could have done, but not as brilliant… still fairly good and interesting.
 
The funny title “Dr. Hell No” is a swifter proposition that sounds once again like a modern Helloween, mixed with a bit of Gotthard and I dunno what else… a quirky number that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
 
Last but not least, “To Be With You Once More” is another ballad in which however Mageney slightly disappoints by keeping in check, when it feels like the whole song would have been un-locked, if he launched into some vocal acrobatic, either a third above or more, but that never comes… closing the album in a slightly underwhelming manner.
 
For an album that arrives just a mere year, after the previous one, “Deja Voodoo” is really solid and can either way hold well on its own, with a bunch of pretty cool songs. Fans of Andi Deris era Helloween, Axel Rudi Pell and Jaded Heart (when they didn’t suck), will probably enjoy this Swiss cheese.