This review was originally posted on Discovered Magazine in February 2019.
Hailing from Tokyo,Crystal Lake have managed to continuously bring something fresh and new to the metalcore scene since the release of their debut EP ‘Cubes’ in 2014. Following up their 2016 full-length, ‘True North’, Crystal Lake have presented, once again, a well thought out collection of songs that are both original and powerful with ‘Helix’.
The most noticeable strengths with ‘Helix’ are both the songwriting and production approach, the members of Crystal Lake experimenting with both the lyrics and traditional blueprint metalcore bands often follow when it comes to structure and production. Incorporating both old and nu-metal influences, ‘Helix’ pays homage to the bands that have come before Crystal Lake while also experimenting with something new.
‘Aeon’ is one of the strongest songs on the entire record. Featuring guest vocals from Issues’ AJ Rebello, the fusion of deathcore vocals and signature heavy metal guitars and percussion collide together, producing a well-executed metal track that fans will continue to go back to.
“INCORPORATING BOTH OLD AND NU-METAL INFLUENCES, ‘HELIX’ PAYS HOMAGE TO THE BANDS THAT HAVE COME BEFORE CRYSTAL LAKE WHILE ALSO EXPERIMENTING WITH SOMETHING NEW..”
‘+81’ is where Crystal Lake take a different approach to metalcore, making for one of the most exciting and fresh moments on ‘Helix’. Incorporating groovy guitar riffs that are weaved throughout the track, vocalist Ryo Kinoshita’s mix of rap verses and clean vocals in the chorus and bridge all help to create a nu-metal moment that both old metalcore fans and new listeners will enjoy.
‘Outgrow’ is another standout moment on ‘Helix’. With beautifully written, brutally honest lyrics like ‘dying to see how you beg for me/outspoke like before, empty and heretofore/in spite what we were/I’ll outgrow what you think you are’, Crystal Lake toned down the production on the verses and bridge to allow the lyrics and meaning to speak for themselves. Featuring a classic and well-crafted metalcore guitar solo from rhythm guitarist Shinya Hori and soft notes of a piano, the medley of both clean and metal vocals as the lyrics are sung evoke emotion that is not felt elsewhere on ‘Helix’, making for one of the most distinct moments on the whole record.
“CRYSTAL LAKE PROVED ONCE AGAIN THAT THEY ARE A BAND TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.”
One area where ‘Helix’ seems to fall off a bit is the futuristic influence that is attempted to be weaved throughout. With the album opening up with a twelve-second intro featuring a futuristic and robotic sounding speech, it is assumed that this futurism element is going to be one of the main influences found ‘Helix’. While the overall sound of the intro connects with the intro and outro of ‘Agony’, it is not an element heard widely throughout, sparking the question on if the album intro was an afterthought, an element that compromises and confuses the overall influence the record is trying to convey.
Overall, Crystal Lake presented a solid metalcore album that will please listeners, no matter where on the metalcore spectrum they may fall. Introducing well-executed nu-metal moments on tracks like ‘+81’ and ‘Just Confusion’ and classic metalcore sounds on ‘Aeon’ and ‘Hail to the Fire’, ‘Helix’ is another incredibly strong record Crystal Lake can add to their evergrowing discography. While many in metalcore did not take them seriously when they first emerged out of the Tokyo music scene, Crystal Lake proved once again that they are a band to be taken seriously and that they have the ability to craft a collection of songs that will appeal to listeners of all kinds.