Crystal Tears - Choirs of immortal 4/5

Reviewed: 6-15-07


1. Alpha and omega
2. Sworn to avenge
3. Nightmare terror
4. Rock survivors
5. Master of deception
6. Megas alexandros
7. Stealer of minds
8. When the night is cold
9. And the arrows fall
10. Legends never die

Back in 2002, Greece's Crystal Tears self-released their debut CD, 'Embrace the horror'. Thanks to poor distribution and truly dreadful cover art, 'Embrace the horror' went largely unnoticed by the metal masses, which is a pity because it is a solid slab of energetic, albeit raw, galloping epic true metal with enthusiastic vocals that tended to meander in and out of key (a common malady among Greek singers). With the passage of several years in silence, I assumed that Crystal Tears were simply another unfortunate casualty of the ever-expanding glut of international heavy metal releases. So it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the Grecians had signed to the upstart German label, Pure Steel Records (also home to Icy Steel and Chimaera, among others), and had released a new CD, 'Choirs of immortal'. Only 2 members remain from the 'Embrace' days, namely drummer/producer/apparent bandleader Chrisafis Tantanozis and guitarist Dimitris Goutziamanis.

Unquestionably, the revamped Crystal Tears have improved considerably in the intervening 5 years. The most important and immediately obvious upgrade is in the vocal department, where leather-lunged Natasa Pandreia has taken over the reins. To this reviewer, she sounds like a hybrid of Leather Leone and Mike Towers (Abbatoir/Heretic). While not blessed with an expansive range, Pandreia offers up power, grit, and spunky metal attitude in spades, suiting the music to perfection and instantly raising Crystal Tears several notches in my estimation, although I suppose some might find her a bit too abrasive. Another noticeable improvement lies in the songwriting, as Tantanozis and Goutziamanis have refined their skills at penning punchy 3-4 minute unapologetic true heavy metal anthems balanced between speedy smashers like "Nightmare terror" and "Stealer of minds", on the one hand, and more measured assaults like "Rock survivors" and "When the night is cold", on the other. They don't try to do anything fancy in terms of song structures or instrumental flights of fancy, but every song's a winner, sporting potent riffs and catchy choruses. Particularly deserving of mention is the "Alexander the Great" song (track 6) whose title is in Greek, but which is simply a magnificent midtempo tune whose chorus is among the most infectious I've heard in recent memory ("Through the lands/through the oceans and mountains"). Epic metal fans may need to visit an oxygen tent after hearing this song to return their breathing to a normal cadence. The musicianship is up to snuff, and the production job by Tantanozis is professional and crunchy, which so often is not the case in Greek releases.

The emergence in recent years of high-quality, mostly independent, female fronted traditional/true metal bands with ballsy singers has truly been a welcome development in the scene. I've ranked the recent outings by Twilight Odyssey and Crystal Viper to be at or near the pinnacle of this subgenre, but I think Crystal Tears can give them some serious competition. Between Pandreia's devastating vocals and the strong riffs and hooklines, Crystal Tears are a force to be reckoned with not only in the Greek scene, but also worldwide. My only recommendations for improvement are perhaps to be a bit more ambitious with the songwriting (I'd love to hear Crystal Tears deliver an awe-inspiring 8-9 minute epic or 2, and I think they've got the chops to pull it off) and perhaps to increase the running time from this CD's fairly skimpy 37-minute duration to give the metal-buying public a bit more value for what is an expensive, difficult to acquire import CD. Otherwise, color me very impressed!




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