(Iron Shield 2015)
From the heavy metal hotbed of Finland come Crimson Day with their full-length debut, ‘Order of the Shadows,’ on Iron Shield Records. Like labelmates Axevyper and Blackslash, Crimson Day play traditional Euro-styled heavy metal, without a lot of superfluous bells and whistles. The quintet had previously self-released a six-song EP in late 2013; however, none of those tracks are revisited here.
What strikes me in listening to this 11-song, 52-minute effort is the quality and consistency of the songwriting. Crimson Day aren’t trying to relive the 1980s, nor do they aspire to blow the listener away with speed, virtuosity, sheer heaviness or intricate arrangements. They don’t really do ballads or epics (although the 7-minute closer, “The Gathering,” comes close), just uncomplicated, guitar-driven, no-frills Euro metal, with enough dynamics in the arrangements to keep things interesting and a few light keys in the background to add atmosphere. The “formula” of Crimson Day is to take big, sturdy, simple melodic guitar riffs, add the mid-ranged, charismatic vocals of Valtteri Heiskanen (who has just a touch of mid-range Kai Hansen in his voice), and hit hard with memorable choruses and cool melodies. ‘Order of the Shadows’ is a very easy album to listen to and a very easy album to like.
Standout cuts include video track “Sandstalker,” with its Eastern-sounding “snake charmer” riff, Accept-influenced backing choirs, and hammering uptempo solo section that sounds like something Gamma Ray might do in Kai’s most “heavy metal” moments; “Stormborn,” which rides a mighty Primal Fear-type riff into a triumphant chorus, as Heiskanen belts out the ‘Game of Thrones’ inspired lyrics; “Burning Redemption,” where superb melodic riffing over a double-bass foundation gives way to an anthemic chorus and another high-octane solo section with awesome fiery leads evolves into a quiet half-whispered clean interlude before the chorus brings it all home; and the aforementioned “The Gathering,” which encapsulates everything awesome about Crimson Day (killer guitars, strong vocals, superb chorus, and a couple of cool dynamic shifts) in seven glorious minutes, plus a dose of added urgency, with that riff at 4:45 absolutely owning my soul every single time. As I said, though, consistency really is the name of the game on ‘Order of the Shadows,’ and there’s not a subpar, weak track in sight.
It’s a crowded marketplace out there, and Crimson Day aren’t hopping trends or taking the easy path. So it will be a challenge for them to garner attention. My feeling, however, is that the world can always use another well-written, well-played, honest, no-gimmicks, high-quality heavy metal album. And that’s precisely what Crimson Day have given us with ‘Order of the Shadows.’ If slow and steady wins the race, and I firmly believe that it does, Crimson Day have what it takes to outlast many of their here-today, gone-tomorrow peers.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~