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Crimson Chrysalis - Crimson Passion Cry
Written by Doctor T.   
Thursday, 19 September 2013

Crimson Chrysalis - CD Review
Crimson Passion Cry

Crimson Chrysalis - Crimson Passion Cry

 

Ravenheart Music
2013
Mostly English lyrics
14 tracks

I believe this may be the first review here dealing with a release from Africa, I know it’s the first I’ve done and its about time. The band is from South Africa, the lead vocalist is the lovely Rene van den Berg who, I am told, resides at present in Lynnwood, in Pretoria, a capital of South Africa. The release is pretty much in an American version of English although Rene pointed out that her native tongue is Afrikaans. For those of you who were wondering, they have 11 official languages in South Africa.

This release, while it is referred to as “Symphonic Metal” is not entirely housed within that musical structure. It goes in some different directions, although there is enough of the symphonic and the femme metal to qualify on some level. But, this is Africa, and this is extreme southern Africa. It’s a long ways from Amsterdam, it’s a long ways from pretty much anything we typically deal with. And, consequently, this is a slightly different sound from what we might expect from a release that is classified as this one is. I spent a fair amount of time interacting with Rene van den Berg in an effort to get a grasp of what Crimson Chrysalis is all about. You don’t exactly catch on with the first listen, it’s like you’ve heard something like this before at one level, but, at another, this is absolutely new and different. And, it’s hard to put those differences into words. Fortunately, Rene helped me with that and I’ll let her do a lot of the explaining here.

The place where you first recognize that you’ve left Western Europe light years behind is with the 4th track, Blood Diamonds. I have to tell you, this is one of the finest single tracks I’ve heard on any release this year, an absolute classic on so many levels I can’t begin to capture the extent of its relevance. I’d love to point to a link for this but they haven’t done one yet although Rene tells me its in the works. If they don’t do it pretty soon, I’ll do it myself. This one has to be made available. This one is Africa, it places the entire release in perspective. Rene talked about it, “The sounds you hear is African children and some chants of the African people. We wanted to bring in something of the heart beat of Africa, but this song was not written with a specific situation or political view point in mind. History has always been a testimony of power hunger individuals or belief systems, and yet the innocent always ends up paying the price. . .’Blood diamond’ is their post script. . .The chanting part in the bridge is a Sanskrit mantra - the mantra that heals all suffering.” The lyrics from this one are among the most relevant statements I’ve heard in this style of music, and they take a universal perspective:

I thought I believed in reciprocity / But it turned out to be mere hypocrisy There’s a dying art called aristocracy / That makes hungry babies cry and their ailing mothers die.

Like the calming chants of the pragmatist / and the purist stance of the humanist, the vast reform of the Methodist – / Still the hungry babies cry and desperate mothers die.

There are violent cries from extremists, / and weak replies of the pacifists The collective guilt of the Communists – And tiny, stillborn babies cry where their butchered mothers die.

It’s pretty hard to get past that one.

One of the things you recognize rather quickly with this one is that there is some extremely beautiful music here. Rene has a voice hard to describe, it’s not Tarja in full operatic mode, it’s not the thundering vocal of Floor Jensen. But, this sound has a beauty of its own, and the music that supports it only increases that perspective. The overall sound, however, doesn’t really approximate anything we’ve typically followed before. Rene addresses the reasons for this relatively novel direction: “You must remember we created in total isolation - we just did what sounded good and nice to us because the genre don't exist here. Which was also good because we did not follow the trend or sound anywhere. That gives us a bit of a different sound, don't you think?”

The featured release, from the band’s perspective, is Angels and Demons. Yea, this one’s pretty good too, and features a guest appearance by Adolph de Beer, one of several male guest vocalists. Again, you seem to get a bit of an “African” visual experience. It’s a solid track, especially from a musical perspective. And, again, we get some truly fine lyrical content from the band’s lyricist,

However, it could be said that the “classical” structure is the most predominant element presented on this release. Crimson Passion City  demonstrates this capability in both a musical and visual demonstration of some significant beauty. Again, the lyrics can not be overlooked. Rene talked about the production process which is essentially Rene doing the music and Esther Slabbert doing lyrics. Their association had an interesting inception, as Rene recounts: “ I used to do more Afrikaans acoustic rock music. Es heard me sing a rock song (cover) and told me I need to sing rock - it fits me like a glove. I told her to write me a lyric then and so we started writing together. That is where CC comes from - the Crimson symbolises passion and the Chrysalis is a figure of change (for the whole directional change in the music)”. Its a gifted association, and it’s pretty much the core of the release. There are additional vocals but a lot of the instrumental work was done by session musicians. But, they provide some truly interesting music. Deo Volente provides an interesting Latin component. The title, I’m told, means God Willing or If it’s in God’s will. Rene talked about this one a little as well: “Oh, wanted to tell you, "vita cara" in Deo means life is beautiful, or beautiful life. Its a song about the beauty and tragedy of life. Is all the sadness part of a Master plan, or do we cause it ourselves?”

However, there are occasional visits to the wilder side of life, not all is classical beauty. First and foremost on the list for the prosecution here would be the rather interesting Fuck Off and Die which clearly shows a different side of the project. And Rene sure looks good playing that guitar with an attitude.

It’s difficult for me to pick one attribute with this release to focus on. Rene has a voice that could stop traffic in New York. The general musical quality is outstanding, and more than a little diversified. The lyrics, about as good as it gets. I’ve been fortunate to learn a little about Rene, and the project in general. I don’t know a lot about Africa, don’t know a lot of Africans, especially in the southern part of the continent, but it’s more than a little rewarding to learn that music of this caliber is originating there. Ravenheart Music has a winner here, they need to keep Rene locked up for a long time. In fact, my only request is to get that Blood Diamonds video completed, that track alone is worth the price of admission. But overall, this is a new music, something different in a genre that is sometimes called a little too familiar. You won’t have that problem with this one, it’s a winner in every respect.

10 / 10

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