Crystal Lake - Helix | Album Review

Since the band's formation in 2002, Crystal Lake have gone on to become one of Japan's premier metalcore bands and they have made their name known the world over for being one of the hardest-working bands in the scene. In their long career the band have regularly endured intensive touring schedules and completed tour cycles with some of the biggest bands in the game, even being a part of the inaugural incarnation of Slipknot's Knotfest Japan. Helix serves as the band's fifth full-length studio album and first release since signing to overseas label SharpTone Records. The record comes at a time where the band have fully settled back into their rhythm after lineup and label changes in recent years, and positively showcases the band at nothing less than their sparkling best.

After a short intro courtesy of the albums 12-second title track, Helix drops the listener right in at the deep end with the furiously intense 'Aeon'. Metalcore is a genre with a long history and a tried and tested formula with few acts able to stand out from the masses who saturate the genre’s landscape. Right from the get-go, it is clear that Helix is different. Helix is special. Early on in the album it quickly becomes overtly clear that Crystal Lake have produced something indicative of a band that have reached a new plateau – something fresh, something new, something that few of their contemporaries will be able to match.

Blending distorted electronics, brutally heavy guitars, full-force, skull-shattering drums, and all held together by Ryo Kinoshita's savage vocals, the album is a shining testament to the band's outstanding songwriting and musical tact. Many metalcore bands have ventured to integrate electronics with traditional metal instrumentation, and you may think you've heard this done to its peak, but then again you probably haven't heard Crystal Lake do it.

The way Crystal Lake seamlessly incorporate electronics into their music elevates the outcome of the whole product. Many bands simply layer the electronics over the top of the traditional instruments in flourishes that come across as more of an afterthought rather than an integral part of the track, whereas Crystal Lake delicately weave them into the very fabric that holds a track together. The way electronics are implemented throughout the entirety of Helix serves to elevate each track to new heights, all while intensifying the beautifully callous nature of the piece.

One of the standouts from the album has to be 'Hail To The Fire'. As soon as the opening riff kicks the song off, you know you're in for a treat that only Crystal Lake can gift you. Serving as one of the genre-conforming staples on the album, sitting well within the confines of the genre, the song just goes to show that even when the band stick to the script they can produce a piece that stands out from the rest. The intensity of the breakdown at the end of the track leaves you fantasising about the chaos it will incite in a live setting: wall-to-wall free for alls and pit as big as the venue could possibly accommodate.

A more subdued moment on the album (well, about as subdued as the band tends to get) comes with the track 'Just Confusing'. Starting with a startlingly loud phone buzzing, the track begins with restrained electronic drums and Ryo constantly alternating between clean and screamed vocals. Even in the chorus sections, the track is stripped back to the bare minimum of musical elements, with the unobtrusive instrumentation contrasting with the balls-to-the-wall theme of the rest of the album.

With Helix, Crystal Lake have stamped their own unique mark on a genre that has been travelled by many before them. Whether you're a fan of metalcore or heavy music in general, this is a must-have album. Each track brings a totally new dimension to the album, and the resulting product is something to truly be admired and in awe of in equal measure. With each album, Crystal Lake have continued to forge their own space within the metalcore genre and Helix is their most cohesive, interesting, and exciting piece of work to date. If you're not already a fan of the band, give Helix even one listen and you'll be captivated and utterly enthralled by what the band have created. Helix is one of the standout metal albums of the year so far, so don't sleep on this, Crystal Lake have created something unbelievably close to metalcore perfection.

Score: 9/10

Helix Is Out Febuary 15th Via SharpTone Records