Crystal Lake – ‘Helix’

By Dave Stewart

If you’re a metalcore fan and you’ve been paying attention over the last few years, Crystal Lake is probably a name that you’re familiar with. The Japanese heavyweights have been carving up quite the reputation for themselves, getting better with every release and packing an impressive punch when performing live. Some of you may have even witnessed that punch if you attended their last UK tour with Bury Tomorrow, 36 Crazyfists and Cane Hill. If you didn’t think they could get any better, wait until you hear their fifth full length ‘Helix’. Haven’t listened to them at all yet? Welcome to the party, you got here just in time.

There is an enormous amount of excitement surrounding this record, and that has a lot to do with the release of the first single from this record, ‘Aeon’. Not only is the video for it visually impressive, the music that accompanies it is aurally stunning too, full of frantic blast beats, chunky riffs and vocals so evil it makes front man Ryo Kinoshita sound like he’s possessed. You find yourself at the end of the track completely breathless, not able to take in what you’ve heard. And guess what? Not only was it the first single off the record, it’s the first track on it. Strap in, because they’re only warming up.

There’s a fair bit of diversity on offer here, but it all blends together to create a well-balanced sound. They keep their feet firmly on the accelerator with ‘+81’ – a riff heavy, bouncy bruiser. It’s chugs along at a perfect head banging tempo before dropping a chorus that’s begging for a crowd to scream it. ‘Lost in Forever’ has a more classic metalcore sound, sounding like a cross between The Ghost Inside and While She Sleeps with soaring chorus melodies and pulsing hardcore breakdowns. There’s even some serious nu metal flavour on ‘Hail To The Fire’, with thick guitars packing the groove as Ryo channels his inner Jonathan Davis to deliver some venomous chants.

The entire record is jam packed with quality, but a few songs stand out amongst the bunch. ‘Outgrow’ is a masterstroke – an epic musical journey, rising and falling in all the right places with the best chorus of the record in tow. ‘Agony’ is brutal and unpredictable, powering its way through even more crushing drum and guitar work. The subtle tempo change in this sets a wrecking ball in motion, and that wrecking ball connects with your ears in the form of some unsettling low guitar tones.

Finally, there’s the closing track ‘Sanctuary’, which acts as a summary of the entire record. Elements of everything that preceded it are welded together here, and the end result is a soaring and powerful conclusion to an incredible record. It’s near impossible to start listening to this record and not listen right through to the end. This is 41 minutes of pure, punishing, and perfectly executed metalcore.

‘Helix’ is a fierce white knuckle ride of a record. The flow is flawless, transitioning from disgustingly heavy breakdowns to soaring beautiful melodies with style and finesse. The production is insanely good, too; every snare hit is powerful enough to rattle your ribcage, the guitar and bass are larger than Godzilla, and the vocals are as clear as glass. If you were on the fence with these guys, unsure whether they were a flash in the pan or destined for greatness, this record cements that they sit in the latter category. Crystal Lake have elevated themselves to stand amongst the giants of the genre. Metalcore is not dead, and these guys are one of the main reasons that it’s surviving.

DAVE STEWART

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