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On disc: Crystal Ball

Virtual Empire - Anika Peterson - 8 stars
Dawnbreaker - Claudia Ehrhardt - 7 stars


(Massacre Records - 2013)

It's been 6 years since Swiss rockers Crystal Ball released Secrets, now they are back with Dawnbreaker - and a new line-up. Only guitarist Scott Leach and drummer Marcel Sardella are left over from the original line-up.

Zarathustra is leading you into Dawnbreaker, it's quite dramatic and sounds familiar... The intro takes you into the riff-based Break Of Dawn. The new vocalist Steven Mageney seems to like Helloween with Andi Deris on vocals, but the slightly raspy voice and some passages remind me a little bit of U.D.O. ... For Anyone Can Be A Hero they did a video, so you can check out that song on your own.

After 3 rockers they present Eternal Flame, this ballad they want to present at the national Eurovision Song Contest show and they hope to represent Switzerland at the next ESC. Well, the song is missing something... the special magic. It can't touch me, this is sonic valium for me.

For Skin To Skin they get heavier again, but the mid-paced tune doesn't show them as vivid as at the first tunes, even if the guitarists do a good job. A song like Back For Good sounds like a more melodic version of a U.D.O. tune... A balladesque tune is Stranded which is in my opinion much better then Eternal Flame. But it might be too heavy for ESC, on the other hand Lordi won the ESC in 2006.

Sun Came Out is one of the songs that stick out, even if it isn't a real ear catcher. Most songs are mid-tempo and as they use the same sound elements they sound too much alike - at least for me. Still, they are better than many other bands, above average, but after 6 years expectations are high.

7 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt


Virtual Empire

Virtual Empire
(Nuclear Blast - 2002)

Another band from Switzerland are Crystal Ball. The melodic metallers are presenting these days their 3rd album which is called Virtual Empire. The song Hands Of God is very much like their previous stuff... With Savage Mind they make you forget about that, this is their nowadays sound. On Am I Free singer Mark Sweenes' vocals and the guitar riffing sounds a little like old Helloween - Kiske era - also it has the typical Crystal Ball sound elements. It sounds fresh. The Swiss offer catchy hooklines and groovy riffs. On some tracks the guitar groove remind me of the 80's glam rock. Remarkable are the keyboard parts and the drums which build a contrast to the keys on the title track Virtual Empire. But they can also slow down and present some rock ballad which has everything incl. some bitter-sweet lyrics without getting cheesy. With Look In My Eyes they recorded another ballad. Dance With The Devil is rocking riffs and the drums speed up. A groovy rocker.
If you like catchy songs which don't lack power, then get the latest album of the Swiss rockers. Hard rockers should give it a try, too. Modern, but timeless rock.

8 stars

Anika Peterson
(translation: Claudia Ehrhardt)


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