Since discovering their 2014 EP Cubes, I’ve always believed Crystal Lake have been an underrated gem in the metalcore scene. Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, the band gained momentum through numerous well-produced music videos from the EP, and the full-length albums The Sign (2015) and True North (2016). With their new album, Helix (Sharptone Records), the group is poised to make themselves known to the world.
Crystal Lake’s most noticeable strength with Helix is embracing versatility in songwriting. More often than not, bands in metalcore tend to follow a blueprint and not deviate. Through their past releases leading up to Helix, the guys have broadened their songwriting to include a myriad of elements from the modern heavy music genre, while keeping their core sound on a heavy and energetic foundation.
Album opener “Aeon,” featuring guest vocals from Issues’ AJ Rebollo, is a brutal, aural display of black metal worship. As screaming vocals and blast beats collide with a fusion of familiar metalcore verses, all ending in a crushing deathcore style breakdown.
Nu-metal influences are made modern on Helix. “+81” brings a head-bobbing flow of rap verses and bouncy grooves. “Hail to the Fire” finds vocalist Ryo Kinoshita channelling Disturbed’s David Draiman with vocal noises that match the song’s tribal feel. “Just Confusing,” a track that may live up to it’s name for listeners, finds instrumentation replaced by beats and electronics as Ryo weaves between rapping verses and a melodic chorus.
The “Aeon” music video is a horrific vision of a techno-organic nightmare.
Fans of metalcore that embraces melodic elements in the music and vocals will be pleased to hear songs like “Agony” and “Devilcry”; as they bounce back and forth between the traditional yelling vocals and heavy breakdowns, to drifting guitar melodies and catchy choruses. A prime example of this, and one of my favourites from the album, is “Apollo”. “Lost in Forever” is a standout track that carries the spirit of melodic hardcore bands like The Ghost Inside, with an exciting mid-song verse with guest vocals from Gideon members Daniel McWhorter and Tyler Riley, before ending with an even more melodic take on the anthemic chorus.
While I don’t find myself emotionally grabbed by them, the lyrics stylistically fit with the shifting moods that change from song to song. They’re definitely memorable enough in a lot of moments to find myself mentally singing along, but for now may be the extent of it. The flow of the album isn’t as cohesive as their previous releases, a minor downside to the aforementioned versatility of the songs.
Helix is a strong effort from Crystal Lake that catapults the band to new heights in the heavy music scene. By dabbling in new elements from other subgenres, they continue to broaden their songwriting scope to deliver exciting music built on an energetically-charged metalcore foundation. Fans of the genre looking for a breathe of fresh air that deviates from the blueprint need to look no further than this stellar album.
The “Lost in Forever” music video sees Crystal Lake on the road in Europe, capturing the action from club shows to festivals.
Helix Track Listing:
05. Lost in Forever
08. Hail to the Fire
10. Just Confusing
Run Time: 40:26
Release Date: February 15, 2019
Record Label: Sharptone Records