ReviewShadow Kingdom's PR contacted me with a review copy of the sophomore release from Pennsylvania heavy metallers Sinister Realm.
Sinister Realm checks all the right boxes. At their normal mid-paced gallop, they sound very Iron Maiden. When they slow down, they sound like Candlemass. Comparisons don't get any better than that within the traditional metal camp. These dudes know how to write a riff or a solo, and more importantly, they know how to write hooks that are catchy as hell. I want to ride with them, "with swords held high".
In terms of sound, everything is perfect. The production is clear and modern, without feeling sterile, and all of the instruments sound great. In particular, the bass tone jumps out at me. Save the misplaced acoustic outro on the title track, they get everything right compositionally as well.
However--and this is a big however--this music absolutely begs for a better vocalist. Alex Kristof delivers everything in a strong baritone with some vibrato, and in the verses it works very well. But these choruses are meant to be huge, and his voice just doesn't deliver the Dickinsonian peaks that should be there. Either he's holding back for fear of going out of key, or he just can't do it. It's not working. Get better at it, or go in an unexpected direction (maybe a growl or sneer).
The Verdict: The music in here kills, and the hooks will stay with you. But in the hook-oriented world of traditional heavy metal, the vocals can be deal-breakers. The vocals here aren't bad, but they're not nearly good enough. I give The Crystal Eye 3.5 out of 5 stars.