Crystal Ball – LifeRider
Massacre Records (May 2015)
Reviewer: Dan Mann
I must hold my hand up from the start and say I’ve been a long time fan of the band. Can’t believe it’s been 16 years since their debut ‘In The Beginning’ was released.
But putting that aside I approached this new release with an open mind. And there I hit a snag, this review won’t appear unbiased as I’ll state right now, I bloody love it!
Kicking into gear from the start with ‘Mayday!’ which has a hook that instantly grabs you and already your foots tapping and your head is nodding along. The pace does not let up, but with the very nice addition of Battle Beast’s Noora Louhimo as a guest on ‘Eye To Eye’ which adds a great overall feel to the track and I feel myself leaning to this track as one of my favorites on the album. The title of track three ‘Balls Of Steel’ I think rather lets you know what to expect and your not disapointed with a great hard rock song with the right amount of nostalgia for us old farts. The phrase ‘anthem’ get’s bandied about in the rock world and ‘Hold Your Flag’ is an absolute classic example of one. Your hand will edge towards that volume dial as this can only be played at ’11’. No let up in the onslaught of what I’ll call traditional hard rock with ‘Gods Of Rock’ another glorious fist pounding song driven hard with some powerful drumming from Marcel Sardella and riff upon riff from the double axe attack of Scott Leach & Markus Flury.
Steven Mageney has once again picked up the vocal reigns after taking over from Mark Sweeny for Crystal Ball’s 2013 release ‘Dawnbreaker’ and a sterling job he’s doing too. From the full on ‘Take It All’ to the following track ‘Bleeding’ it clearly shows his range and adaptive style, very enjoyable and right up my street. The opening to ‘Rock Of Life’ is fantastic with the guitar sound so much to my taste and once again sterling work from the engine room of drummer Marcel Sardella & bass player Cris Stone. ‘Antidote’ is to me the weakest track on the album as it sounds a little muddied in the mix to my ears. And so to the title track ‘LifeRider’ there is more then one influence that shines through but certainly a more than subtle hint of Judas Priest about it. We now reach the last track on the ‘standard’ release. ‘Memory Run’ slows things down a little giving us a six and a half minute opus about friendship and memories (obviously) A great way to finish things off.
But wait……….the digipak has three bonus tracks on, a whole seventeen and a bit more minutes. The first of these is a brave choice of track, as picking any Dio number is always going to get heavily scrutinised. However I think Crystal Ball do a very good version of ‘Sacred Heart’ No it’s not as good as the original, but a sterling effort never the less. Second bonus track is ‘Sign Of The Southern Cross’ Don’t know why this is only a bonus track as it’s fantastic and another one of my favorites from the album. It would not of been out of place on Black Sabbath’s ‘Headless Cross’ release. Now finally we reach the last and final track. And we end on an absolute high into the bargin with ‘Not Like You’ very catchy chorus and again more than worthy to be more than a bonus track.
I mustn’t forget to mention Stefan Kaufmann, whose at the helm for not only the album’s mastering but also the acoustic guitar on ‘Memory Run’ and backing vocals on ‘Gods Of Rock’
So to sum up, if you like I guess one could call it traditional hard rock with just the right homage to the past then this won’t disappoint.