Crystal Ball - Liferider

Crystal Ball Liferider cover
Crystal Ball
Liferider
Massacre Records
2015
6.5
I suppose Crystal Ball is not exactly the first band that comes to your mind when it comes to melodic metal with hard rock sensibilities, or the other way around, as they have been eclipsed by other bands in the genre, no matter if they were on a bigger label.
 
They’ve been going on for a while now and “Liferider” is their eighth (!) album, so far with a vital change behind the mic, taking place on their previous album... after a long hiatus, in all probability due to not being able to move up a notch. All these changes and the accumulated experience, of all those years, validates Swiss, as a quite decent combo nowadays on par with later day Jaded Heart and Primal Fear when they gravitate towards mid-tempo hard rock inspired moments.
 
Fact of the matterley, I can’t remember ever enjoying a Crystal album this much, but this doesn’t mean that they have all of the sudden become – a top notch attraction – it just means that after a long time and no matter the lineup shuffle, they have come up with the goods, on a solid enough album.
 
The opening track, “Mayday”, is a bit wimpy and reminded me quite a bit of Swedish hard rockers The Poodles, at their more mid-tempo.
 
Not terribly original, but quite entertaining. “Eye to Eye” (featuring Noora Louhimo from Battle Beast) begins with some nice guitar lead and is driven by a pretty simple riff, but it works rather well.
 
“Paradise” reminded me of a lesser Yngwie Malmsteen pomp-mid tempo, with Kiss and Bonfire flashbacks.
 
The tad heavier “Balls of Steel” pushes onwards and up to its pre-chorus leaving the listener with high expectations, which its chorus doesn’t quite deliver on.
 
“Hold Your Flag” has this “Dream Evil” era Dio vibe, but it doesn’t hold a candle to anything Dio even did.
 
“Gods of Rock” is one of those silly metal-pride songs, which thankfully is not all that bad as those type of songs can be, even if the lyrics are of the toe curling, cheese grating variety.
 
“Take It All” has a nice enough melody and a decent chorus, but most of the other aspects of the song, don’t quite work as well.
 
“Bleeding” is a nice slower ballad, which will possibly remind you of Accept ballads and all etc., since Mageney, the band’s singer has the sort of voice that does have a bit of natural, hoarseness, without sounding annoyed. It’s one of the better songs on the album, actually…
 
“Rock of Life” again has this anthemic quality and big pulsating rhythms, but doesn’t impress too much, but at least the lyrics are not “that” dodgy, although they do remain a little cheesy.
 
“Antidote” is OK, trying to mix the melody with the heaviness and almost succeeding in its quest to be a good song while doing all that.
 
The title track, again has this mid-era Accept, gone hard rock, mentality, that was displayed on their “Face the Heat” album.
 
Last but not least “Memory Run” isn’t too bad as a closer, a mid-tempo, melodic and epic enough song, which just misses the bullseye because of its slightly dodgy chorus, that doesn’t compliment the fine lead guitar work or the melodies of the song as well as it should.
 
Overall, this late in their career and having recently changed their singer these Swiss guys, have come up with a fairly decent offering but are now on a small label... had they released an album this good back when they were on Nuclear Blast, maybe they would have stayed on that label’s roster. Very refined melodic hard rock that flirts with metal, that’s not top of the bill material, but is a fairly decent also run.