Σάββατο, 1 Δεκεμβρίου 2018

GATEKEEPER interview - Sword-swingin' Heavy Metal and the Kodex of the Olde.


Gatekeeper from Canada is one of those new bands that you can bet they will shake the foundations of underground metal. Been also fans and active part of underground, they've seen already many battles and Geoff Blackwell, leader and keeper of the gate talks to Crystal Logic about everything!

" I started writing music for Gatekeeper in 2010 while living in Edmonton. It originally started as a fun way for me to teach myself guitar and play some barbaric heavy metal riffs that were different from the other bands I was playing in at the time. As I was writing songs I figured it would be fun to get a couple friends to play on it, maybe some guitar solos and some singing, anything I couldn't do myself. I put up some demos on YouTube and MySpace and had a logo made up and was playing the super-cult, obscure card because I was into those sorts of underground bands and wanted to do something similar. I wasn't taking it too seriously at the time.
As time went on, some people in bands that I admired and respected started getting in touch with me about the band. Eric from Argus was the first, then Matt Barzegar from Funeral Circle and Manuel Trummer from Atlantean Kodex as well. After talking with these people and hearing other positive reactions, I figured that it might be worth making Gatekeeper into an actual band. So I called up some friends who were playing in other bands and get them on board to record our first EP and play the first batch of live shows. It was just a side-project for everyone at this point.
After a few more years and a handful of other smaller releases I made the decision to move to Vancouver and both the split vinyl records with Eternal Champion and Funeral Circle were released during this time.
After about a year of living on the west coast I met the guys who would eventually become the current Gatekeeper lineup. David (bass) was playing in the awesome band Manic Strike and he was already a fan of Gatekeeper to begin with. When Guardians of the Northwest asked us to play their festival in Portland, USA we decided to put together a live lineup. This lineup was Tommy and Kenny (drums and lead guitar), and we called up Jean-Pierre who had been living in Vancouver for a few months while working on Spell's album and he agreed to sing for us.  We took two months to rehearse for the shows and the madness began. "

You have released split singles, EPs and more stuff over the last years, but 'East Of Sun' is the first full-length album of the band. What took you so long?
 
I think the main thing that held us back was timing, and how serious we were. It took an incredibly long time just to record the first EP and there were so many problems with that process. So even though I had a lot of songs written and demoed, I felt that trying to record a full length album with the old lineup wouldn't have been worth it. Smaller releases suited our work-flow better.
When we got back from that first tour with the west-coast lineup, Tommy and Jean-Pierre both expressed their interest in staying with the band full-time. In fact it was actually JP's idea to record a full length album. We had some border trouble going back into Canada on our way back from the first tour and JP was forced to stay behind in the USA. He called me after getting held at the border for hours and told me how much fun he had with us and that he wanted to do an album with as soon as possible.
We started working on the full-length from that point onward. I think we all saw a lot of potential in what we had done in our short time together and it reamy bandmates, I started hearing “OK, how do we pull this off?” We started writing some songs as a group, rehearsing twice a week and JP even moved to a different city for us. He actually lives with me in Vancouver now.

Some of the songs included herein like 'North Wolves', 'Bell Of Tarantia' and 'Swan Road Saga', are known to the ones that follow the band. When was the majority of the album written? Did you have a "plan" when you were recording the album that it should move to a specific direction?
We really wanted to take advantage of the momentum of the band and when it came time to hit the studio, we decided that the album should be a complete representation of what the band sounds like now, at this period of time. We had a couple new songs written by the band as a whole, and I had older, unused material which the rest of the band helped me arrange. Lastly, we decided to include a few previously recorded songs because they were still commonly found on our live setlist. I'm personally much happier with the newer versions of the songs. The performance on the band is stronger and JP really delivers on his vocal performance. He even re-wrote the vocals from 'North Wolves' from scratch and now I think it's one of the coolest tunes on the record because of it.
So to sum to the first part of the question, the songs for the album date back as early as 2010 or 2011 and come all the way into 2017. However, the arrangements of all the songs are fresh and even more inspired to me than when I first wrote them.

How was the recording process of 'East Of Sun'? 
It started out great. We booked four days in the studio with Mike Rogerson to do the drums and we ended up getting drums, bass and early takes of rhythm guitars and vocals in that time, plus the two cover songs. After that it was more painful as we were working through a recording school and our schedule was limited—we had to work around the students at the school and often had to wait for weeks or even a month between sessions. I did many all-night recording sessions for the guitars. I would work all day, then record my guitars from 9pm to 6am, go home, make breakfast, go back to work, repeat. It was insane but thanks to the tenacity of the band and our incredibly talented assistant engineer Angelo Boose we got it done.

Your musical inspirations are quiet obvious and they are not just from classic 80s bands like Omen but also from newer bands like Atlantean Kodex. Tell us about them and how would you describe your music to someone that is not familiar with Gatekeeper?
I tell people that we play sword-swingin' Heavy Metal. Bands such as Omen, Manowar, viking-era Bathory, Manilla Road are key influences. Of course Atlantean Kodex and Solstice were also massive inspirations to me, especially in the early days. Another massive influence is the great Twisted Tower Dire, one of the best US-metal bands ever. I have huge respect for them. And then there are the Sword Brothers, Ironsword and Doomsword.
These days I try not to be too specific with where I get my influence and ideas from—I'm listening to a lot of different stuff these days and I want to stretch our Epic Heavy Metal tag as far as it will go. I don't think we'll ever totally break away from that area, but we want to push the boundaries of it. Lately I look to Dio, Fates Warning, Savatage, Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson and Return To Forever for inspiration.

There is a new wave of epic metal bands coming from United States (and Canada) with Gatekeeper, Eternal Champion, Visigoth and more. How is the current metal scene in North America? Which bands do you distinguish? It appears that there is something boiling and ready to explode but do you think that it will break through or it will remain underground?
There are a lot of cool bands in the North American underground right now. The scene has been blossoming a little bit these days with lots of cool festivals popping up and bands starting to get more notice and appearing on European soil. There aren't many other Epic Metal bands in this part of the world but Cromlech and Emblem come to mind and Smoulder is good, a bit more doom metal. For more traditional metal I like Substratum, Riot City, Skelator and our friends from Spell. Manacle from Canada is also very good with an authentic 80's metal sound. JP also did a demo with the band Traveller recently which is very well done, it's got members of Hrom and Gatekrashor. And of course, Night Demon are the busiest band on the planet right now and doing fantastic work for the metal scene as a whole.
If I'm speaking honestly, I don't think that North America, on a geographical and cultural level, is set up for our kind of music to succeed. We're seeing a resurgence now and it’s pretty great but I don't see another 1983 US Festival happening anytime soon. It's the cycle of life in culture and fashion—an object becomes popular and has mass value. Then it becomes old, is discarded and becomes niche. It might get picked up again and reclaim retro value, but that's a different kind of value.
The good news is that there will always be young people out there. This kind of music can always be fresh and new and exciting to someone, so I hope that people continue to do their part by showing their favorite music to their friends and loved ones. Play your favorite albums for your kids, buy them a guitar for their birthday, send them to music lessons, go see a gig.

However, speaking of underground, do you think that underground can be the new mainstream and what's your view on "underground" and heavy metal music nowadays? There are many many new traditional metal bands out there, various festivals appear everywhere, older bands reunite (even with just one "cult" album), there is a vinyl hype, and cassette tapes return and everything 80s-related seems cool...
To me this idea of the “underground” becoming “mainstream” is an illusion. It has its retro appeal and it's stronger now than it was 20 years ago which is great, but all the numbers that these bands and festivals deal with are small, relatively speaking. I don't really have an issue with any of these things returning—they were a part of my growth and I think they're pretty cool to begin with. I'm more worried about the glass-ceiling effect of our niche scene and the effect this might have on newer and younger bands. I also worry about people who pigeonhole their sound too much from the start and feel the need to start a completely different band if they want to express even something remotely different. I know people in Vancouver who have four different projects going that sound similar enough that they could have taken all those ideas, effort and budgets and turned them into a single, more interesting band. I feel like most local scenes these days consist of a crew of people playing on each other’s solo projects. I'm more interested in hearing collaborative efforts—bands that become more than the sum of their parts.
The other side of this question concerns what people place value on. I feel that nostalgia is one of the greatest cultural exports of our generation. People in my age category will spend days’ worth of free time re-watching some shitty sitcom that aired when they were a kid just to feel some twinkle of childhood wonder again. People love to look backwards. It's comfortable and reliable and you generally know what to say or think about the past because it already happened. The future is unpredictable and scary, so I don't blame people for this behavior. Sometimes though, you just gotta look at a new development and ask yourself “what would Miles Davis do?” and embrace it. Unless it involves beating your wife. Don't do that.

What does it take for a new metal band to survive?
Tenacity, discipline, motivation, a willingness to sacrifice, a team-player attitude, rich parents, government stipends, a bassist with a generous car accident settlement, a sugar-momma/daddy, a liver made of concrete and the ability to find the joy and humor in every situation no matter how bleak or boring or shitty it might be. I like to think that it also helps to not be a crazy asshole too.


On February 22nd, 2019, Cruz Del Sur Music will release Gatekeeper's "Grey Maiden" EP and Sanhedrin's new album "The Poisoner".
Both releases will be available in time for the tour A Shadow Over Europa where both bands will storm the gates of cities like Hamburg, Berlin, Newcastle, London and Athens.



Τετάρτη, 7 Νοεμβρίου 2018

CRIMSON GLORY- Beyond the Electric Sky: The story of "Transcendence" and aftermath.


In November of 1988,"Transcendence", the second album of Crimson Glory was released. It wasn’t a regular metal album. It was something different. "Transcendence" was ambitious and ahead of its time. It was exciting and diverse. It was the perfect soundtrack to a sci-fi love story that is placed in unknown realms. In a mythical world where time has no meaning and reality is dreaming. And if this sounds unthinkable and surrealistic, the album itself proves that mystical dreams can be reality in music notes, poetry and performance. "Transcendence" is one of the best albums ever recorded. A symbol of art that will last forever. Thirty years later and it still stands among those transcendent metal albums that cast their shadow upon us.


We know that the artist is mortal, but the art and the artist’s creation can be immortal. In music, there are songs and albums that stand above the creator and/or performer and in many cases, the artist didn’t manage to surpass his best and iconic creations during his career. He tried, he did different things, similar things but in the end of the day, there was always a big shadow above his new art and even his life and passions. Each artist is also a human, and a human can fall in mistakes and bad choices. Let’s say for now that this (and specific mistakes) should not affect the art. Let’s leave aside this small prologue and discuss with the artists that were part of "Transcendence". Let’s talk about the album, the band, the myth, the vision. Let’s read what the artists have to say. And artists like Jon Drenning, Jeff Lords and Ben Jackson have lot to say. Even if they are no longer active in the same band or there were some conflicts, or "bad" choices. Behind every great act, there is always a great adventure. And who knows... Maybe the dragons will rise again from the sea of flames.


Crimson Glory was formed as a new entity from the ashes of the bands Pierced Arrow and Beowulf, in Sarasota, Florida during 1983. The line-up was Midnight (real name: John Patrick McDonald) on vocals, Jon Drenning and Ben Jackson on guitars, Jeff Lords on bass and Dana Burnell on drums. This line-up rehearsed for years and in 1986 the "Crimson Glory" debut album was first released on Par Records.


Jeff Lords is a great bass player and composer, with a distinguished style and a very important role in Crimson Glory. Jon Drenning, is the lead guitar and composer that guides the starship to the outer space.


Crimson Glory were formed from some friends in Florida. It took you a while until you recorded the debut album, but it sounded perfect. What kind of plans did you have in mind back then and what was the bigger plan for Crimson Glory, since it appears that you had something major in your mind?

Jon Drenning: Well, I remember spending many long hours speaking with Midnight, talking about the type of music we wanted to create together, and that we wanted it to be the type of music we could appreciate twenty five years into the future, much like the bands we admired. We wanted music that was timeless; that was always our goal.

I certainly had no aspirations of just being the best local bar band, or some flash in the pan. It was going to be on a bigger level or nothing at all for me personally. Which was a driving force to attempting to write and record music that sounded great in coliseums, not bars. Music that would be at times LARGER than life and DEEPER than the Ocean…

How did you end with Roadrunner Records and what was the band's vision for "Transcendence"?

Jeff Lords: We ended up with Roadrunner because our first record label, Par Records, which was a small, local independent label run by a man and his wife, immediately sold the rights to Crimson Glory to Roadrunner at the completion of our first album. We got signed to Par Records based on some demos we recorded at the first Morrisound Recording facility in Tampa, Fl. These songs, with the exception of "Lost Reflection", got rerecorded for the actual album. 

Jon Drenning: Jeff's answer is accurate, but allow me to clarify in simpler terms – BAD LUCK (lol). No, really, we thought it was the greatest thing that could happen to us at the time. But we were very naïve and soon realized the darker side of the music industry, which led to many disappointments and arguments for our band and future.

"Transcendence" was released in 1988 and it is a monumental metal album. What do you remember from the recordings of the album and how important was Jim Morris' presence in production and the final result?

Jeff Lords: Jim Morris' presence was important, for one, because he understood our vibe and vision after working with us on demos and eventually our debut/self-titled. While we were a little better prepared for "Transcendence" on the pre-production end of things, other things were stepped up a notch and required more time, for instance, on the vocal and rhythm section end of things. There was a lot of trial and error. An example would be in how we used a Synclavier in conjunction with live cymbals played by Dana for creating drum tracks, hence, the solid, machine-like feel. 

Jon Drenning: I would have to say he was very important to the recording/production. Jim Morris was very detailed in every way imaginable and always insisted on us doing things over and over, get things as tight as possible. We spent countless long hours perfectly the sound of every instrument, the performance of every member. Especially when recording Midnight’s vocals. I have to say the attention to detail was intense. He also was very instrumental on experimentation with creating sounds. He was always willing to try a different amp, microphone, drum, etc. He was also open to our ideas and would let us throws ideas out there no matter how different it may be. He also ask us to "trust" him when how was mixing the album and really surprised us with some of the songs, especially our songs, "In Dark Places" and "Transcendence". Jim and his brother, Tom, did an outstanding mix/production on that last one in particular. Indeed, they did an outstanding job overall in every way, in my opinion.

Did you already have the compositions ready before you enter the studio?

Jon Drenning: I would say half the compositions were probably finished in rehearsals, but songwriting was ongoing throughout the entire recording process. I can remember spending countless hours working on ideas with Midnight – lyrics, arrangements, etc… trying to work out the dynamics of passion, emotion and depth. There were some songs that the other band members really did not like, but we pushed them through because we knew we were on the right track. It may not have been "metal enough" for them, but we weren’t looking for "metal enough", we wanted to move people deeply. And that’s what we did.

Dana Burnell's drums were sampled, right? Everything sounds perfect but why did you chose to record it this way?

Jon Drenning: At the time there was a new instrument called a Synclavier being used by Def Leppard on their albums extensively. It just so happened that a gentleman working at Morrisound had a Synclavier, and we wanted to use it in the hopes that our record would sound more cutting-edge. It certainly made us stand out. From the vast majority of other metal bands from that era.



While most of the music was written by both of you (Jon and Jeff) and with some input by Midnight, most of the lyrics were written by Midnight. Did Midnight wrote the lyrics and you worked on them or the opposite?

Jon Drenning: Midnight wrote the vast majority of our lyrics. At times I and others would help out with core sections or a bridge to reflect some of my musical ideas, but he was the predominant lyricist. A perfect collaboration would be from "In Dark Places" – "In arching moonbeams of light we glide, on bending shadows of warm starlight; angels of color light the night as they fly, transcending into the electric sky".

Midnight wrote the first two lines, I wrote the second two lines. It’s a good example of how we worked together when we/he needed an extra line here or there. Dana also contributed lyrics to a few songs, i.e. "Red Sharks", "Dream Dancer" come to mind…

That being said, Midnight spent many hours alone, late at night, scribbling lyrics into little spiral bound notebooks by candlelight… He was constantly revisiting and rewriting lyrics to achieve the perfect meter, rhyme and feeling, right down to each vowel. Most people don’t understand just how deep he got into what he wrote and sang – he literally felt every word.

Jeff Lords: Midnight had very little input when it came to the music, with the exception of the ideas that he had written on acoustic guitar prior to getting in the band. Two examples would be "Lost Reflection" and "Painted Skies". He had more of a say-so on those songs because he more or less wrote them in their most basic form. Truth be told, much of the time Midnight showed apprehension in this whole acoustic-to-heavy transformation process, for instance, when Jon (Drenning) would suggest chord or arrangement changes to Midnight's original pieces. Midnight wasn't always keen on the prospect of seeing the folk ditties he had created come to life has heavy metal pieces. But in the end, all of the band's influences came together and a wave was created, and Midnight, who had never even listened to heavy metal prior to meeting us, rode that wave with us.   

The presence and image of the band was also important and played its mystical role. You kept that for the live shows, too. Do you believe that you really managed to transfer the studio feeling onstage back then?

Jeff Lords: To me the music could stand on its own merits. The masks and image were an afterthought in an attempt to catapult some unknown guys from Florida into the world of heavy metal. In some ways it worked; in other ways it didn't work. One of the ways it worked was that, yes, it created a mystique around the band because you couldn't see our faces. We got magazine covers because of the masks. One of the ways it didn't work is that you couldn't see our facial expressions, at least, not when we used the full-faced masks in the beginning. This also made it ridiculously hot on stage. Sometime between the first and second album we were taking a long road trip to the next gig, and while doodling with a silver felt-tip marker I drew silver half masks on the faces of Duran Duran, who happened to be on the cover of a music magazine that someone had left in the van we were traveling in. I showed this to the guys and proposed that we cut each guy's full-faced mask diagonally in half and make custom cuts to make each guy's mask look unique. This kept some of the mystique, while allowing for enough facial expression that we no longer looked like a bunch of manikins on stage. Plus, we could actually breathe.

Jon Drenning: The idea was to help create a mystical quality behind the band. We felt the music was strong enough to stand on its own and part of our "mystique" was to avoid taking center stage over the music. Of course we also wanted to present an image that no other band was doing at the time, and I would say that we succeeded on both points.

What did you believe for the music industry when "Transcendence" was released and do you believe that you met your expectations as a band?

Jon Drenning: We were really naive and had no clue about anything regarding the music business, which is why we were so easily taken advantage of by companies like Roadrunner, signing us to horrible contracts which took everything away from us for years. It’s sad, really, because all we wanted to do was make truly great music for as long as we could. And in a way we got punished for our ambition. We really wanted to create a musical masterpiece that would be compared to the great albums we had grown up loving, something which would last for many years – well after the demise of the band. Our music is our legacy, and only the fans get to decide our fate. In that regard, we count ourselves very blessed that "Transcendence" is viewed as one of the best metal records of all time. It’s truly humbling.


Ben Jackson, rhythm guitarist of Crimson Glory and "Transcendence" also shares his memories on the early years.

Ben Jackson: We started out with our first record being with Par Records, a small label from Florida and ended up with Roadrunner Records picking up the first record and "Transcendence". We went into the recording for "Transcendence" with a lot of ambition to top our first record.  I think our vision was accomplished quite accurately.

It was a memorable time recording "Transcendence" and I would say that Jim Morris had a big role in the production and final outcome of the record. We were all working at our highest level for the album. The songs were all pretty much written before we entered the studio except a few lyrics to complete on a couple songs. We would sometimes make little changes on the fly while recording if it would make a song better.

As for the presence and image of the band, Ben Jackson said: I do feel we were able to transfer the studio vibe of the record pretty accurately in our live shows. We brought the mystic feeling and energy to our live performances and really tried to move and captivate the audiences.


Crimson Glory had the opportunity to perform in various festivals in Europe, Japan and United States, and share the stage with bands like Metallica, Queensrÿche, Metal Church and Ozzy Osbourne. After the release of "Transcendence" the press and magazines found a new metal legend. Everything looked in the right place and the album was addictive.   


What made "Transcendence" so great? Let’s have a look in each song.


Lady of Winter: "Her wraith rides the crystal sky of changing colors". Winter is personified in a lady and "woman" is one of the most important chapters in "Transcendence". A perfect opener with an excellent riff, groovy, effective and clear bass lines, and the songwriting we are missing nowadays. From the beginning you can easily understand that you will deal with an album that everything is clear sounding, courtesy of Jim & Tom Morris' production. Midnight shines here with his charismatic voice and passionate performance.

Red Sharks: The fastest, heaviest and most aggressive song of the album, is one of the greatest examples of the Iron Maiden influence on US power metal. "Hovering vultures like demons feed on all who bow to their communist scheme"... Lyrically it deals with Communism (or anti-communism to be more specific) and the artists approach might have change over the years since "Red Sharks" was written during the end of Cold War and thirty years later the "tyrannical dream" has different views in modern history, the United States and Europe. "Red Sharks" still remains as one of the greatest US power metal songs ever.

Painted Skies: "Only nightmares are real"... Although "Transcendence" is dominated by pessimistic lyrics, there is always a brighter shade of blue somewhere in the sky where hope dwells. Midnight doesn't sound like a usual singer and during his celestial performance in "Painted Skies", he is more like a vessel of a love spirit that needs to fly away and escape a nightmare or just live within a dream. Melodic and emotional, "Painted Skies" has also an addictive chorus that you will remember forever.

Masque of the Red Death: "The price that you pay for your lust may be your life" and Edgar Allan Poe sets the scene for a characteristic US power metal song inspired by the legacy and influence of Iron Maiden. There is even a part that reminds "Powerslave" and this track is the perfect example of what a great guitar duo was Jon Drenning and Ben Jackson.

In Dark Places: There is an aura of early Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow here and a stronger one by Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", but in the end it is just a whisper in the wind embraced by Crimson Glory and transformed in haunted melodies. The guitar work of Jon Drenning and Ben Jackson shines here and there is an exceptional arrangement and performance that leads to what some people consider as the highlight of a perfect album.

"From the deep she beckons me, promising eternity. In a world where nothing's real, beyond this realm of light and dreams". Midnight sounds like he is a friend and/or a vessel for emotions like horror, sorrow and pain. He made such emotions friends of him otherwise they would be enemies. But those emotions could turn to inner spirits and voices that might possess the mind and soul of the vessel. And they might did. Time could be just a status of mind but it is real in terms of ageing and the way the human form is changing. But everything you see is just what the eye catches and there might be another dark world where colors are not real. We all see the same thing but each one feels it differently. Midnight was an emotional performer, a poet and a tormented soul that wanted to live in the dark sides of mind. In dark places. And this song is the soundtrack of his existence.

Where Dragons Rule: "In a world between myth and strange reality"... the drum parts on this song are amazing. Simple but addictive. However, they have a robotically programmed pulse that fits perfectly to the marching of the army that will kill for the dragons, but the fire they're breathing is cold. That happens because the drum parts were taken and programmed into a drum machine and Dana Burnell recorded the cymbals over them. But this robotic coldness sounds very clean and makes a perfect contrast with the overall warmth vocal performance and that works in favor of the album. Unusual, but a perfect match and for sure the production has a lot to do with that. Bass guitar is perfect with its effective lines, like the dragon's heartbeat, and the guitar harmonies of Drenning and Jackson are majestic. Jon might be the lead guitarist but in songs like this one, you can clearly understand how important Ben Jackson’s role in Crimson Glory is.

Lonely: "She awakens from a dream to a silent room where shadows speak of memories"... and lyrically this song can be seen as both a sort of a sequel or prequel to "Painted Skies", depending on the view. The night will fade, the sun will shine and light the way for you to spread your wings, fly away, and find new love. There was also an edited video clip for "Lonely" and got airplay back in the time where video clips were just few, really expensive and YouTube was a futuristic vision.

Burning Bridges: This song is a progressive metal monument. "Transcendence" besides a perfect US power metal album, can also stand as a progressive metal leading album along with Queensryche's "Rage For Order" (1986) & "Operation: Mindcrime" (1988), Fates Warning's "Perfect Symmetry" (1989), Heir Apparent's "One Small Voice" (1989) and Dream Theater's "When Dream And Day Unite" (1989) - before the prog metal explosion with Dream Theater's second album, "Images And Words" (1992). It is not "progressive metal" with the meaning of the term today, thirty years later, but PROGRESSIVE with the meaning of its time, hence, ahead of its time. Songs like "Burning Bridges" are breaking the boundaries of heavy metal in 1988. Songs like "Burning Bridges" are for everyone.

"Tell me lies if truth reveals your love"... I always had the curiosity if this song was a kind of direction that Jon Drenning wanted to follow or explore. A sentimental piece of music with an amazing arrangement, guitar and vocal melodies. Midnight is outstanding in this song. A league of his own.

Eternal World: "Behold eternal world"... Originally written as an instrumental for the tour of the debut album in the Netherlands, it turned to a new and complete composition that is closer to the vibe of the previous album. However, it is perfectly placed in the track list of "Transcendence" and doesn't sound out of order. The instrumental part is just mind-blowing.

Transcendence: "They whisper in my visions, they haunt me in my dreams"... A hypnotic and mysterious song where after Jon Drenning's intro, it is dominated by Midnight's aura and performance. The perfect ending to a perfect album. An adventure that ends with a melody and lyrics that remind you that actually "it never really ends"...


Credits
01. Lady of Winter (M.: Drenning / L.: Midnight, Drenning)
02. Red Sharks (M.: Drenning, Lords / L.: Burnell, Drenning)
03. Painted Skies (M.: Drenning, Midnight, Lords / L.: Midnight)
04. Masque of the Red Death (M.: Lords, Jackson, Drenning / L.: Midnight)
05. In Dark Places (M.: Drenning, Lords / L.: Midnight, Drenning)
06. Where Dragons Rule (M.: Drenning, Lords, Midnight / L.: Midnight, Drenning)
07. Lonely (M.: Drenning, Lords, Zahner / L.: Midnight, Drenning)
08. Burning Bridges (M.: Drenning / L.: Midnight)
09. Eternal World (M.: Drenning, Lords / L.: Midnight, Drenning)
10. Transcendence (M.: Drenning, Midnight / L.: Midnight)

Line-up:
Midnight - vocals (R.I.P. July 8th, 2009)
Jon Drenning - lead guitar
Ben Jackson - rhythm guitar
Jeff Lords - bass guitar
Dana Burnell - drums

Produced by Jim Morris and Tom Morris for Morrisound Productions.
Co-produced by Jon Drenning and Crimson Glory.
Engineered and mixed by Jim Morris.

Cover illustration by Takashi Terada.

The artwork is based on a Japanese poster Terada made for the 1985 science fiction film "Lifeforce". Jon Drenning came across the image of the Japanese artist on the cover of the Omni magazine.


On the back of the cover, there is the Tree of Life from Kabbalah and also Greek-Egyptian letters. Everything seems to be connected somehow with the cover, the future the ancient past and the lyrics. What did you want to present?

Jon Drenning: I spent countless hours in libraries growing up, and even as an adult, and I would often read esoteric books on the great mysteries and religions of the world.  Midnight was also deeply interested in these subjects.

So, we felt using the Tree Of Life mixed with ancient Egyptian Coptic would add more mystery and intrigue to the band, and would reflect the lyrical content and music of the band. Midnight and I both believed strongly in an afterlife, and we were always trying to convey this through our songs, much to the chagrin of some other band members. But in the end it all seems to have worked out.


 But the future changed. The third Crimson Glory album, "Strange and Beautiful", was released in 1991 by Roadrunner Records. To be honest and despite the general opinion of many Crimson Glory die-hard fans, I personally love that album. But that’s another chapter in the play.


What happened?


"Strange and Beautiful" is a different record. It is not heavy metal but a diverse mix of styles. It might sound strange to most of the Crimson Glory fans but for me it is a beautiful album and there is some excellent songwriting therein. Ben Jackson (guitar) and Dana Burnell (drums) parted ways with the band because of the changed direction? What led you to this change of style and what do you really believe for that album?

Jeff Lords: After we did our last stint for supporting "Transcendence" we took some time off. When it came time to make demos for the next album, Jon and Midnight were living together in a beach house and Jon had access to some recording equipment. I believe it was a 9 track cassette recorder. So, those two were throwing some ideas around and actually recorded a few things. Ideas that would become "Strange and Beautiful" and "In the Mood" were a few of the first things they threw down. Jon played all the guitars on these demos because he wrote the parts, but a lot of it was just for convenience. These were just rough ideas, after all. In any case, after I dropped the bass, our manager was bugging us for material to give to a guy he knew at MCA Records out in L.A. Around this time Midnight began to sound rough around the edges, so naturally singing the high operatic stuff became a struggle. For this reason, the songs that Jon and Midnight had demoed sounded more like Led Zeppelin than Crimson Glory. Robert Plant was one of Midnight's biggest influences, after all.

Long story short, the band was shopped as a one guitar band and the A & R guy at the major label ended up loving the song "Strange and Beautiful", so much so that he asked if we could write a whole album in that style. By this time so much time had gone by that Ben and Dana understandably started their own project. Ironically, what they were doing sounded more like Crimson Glory than what we were doing. 

Ben Jackson: What led to the change in style is a question you would have to ask Jon. His ego was totally out of control at the end of the "Transcendence" touring and it was taking the band over in a negative way. Always ready to fire one guy or another at a whim. I got to the point where I knew it was not going to be a happy place for me. I will say that I'm still proud of the records and the few minutes of success we enjoyed.

Jon Drenning: Midnight was living with me at the time, and we would send many long hours late into the night writing songs with just the two of us and an acoustic guitar. We realized at the time that we were changing the sound of Crimson Glory and were leaning more toward our personal influences, especially Midnight with Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. So, after writing several songs, we decided on the title of "Strange and Beautiful", and envisioned making a double album, in which the songs that Midnight and I were primarily writing alone would be one record, and the more traditional progressive metal of Crimson Gory would be the other half - when we all go back together to write more songs. But Dana and Ben elected to leave the band and strike out on their own - mainly due to feeling left out of the writing process. As a result, we never got to see the culmination of that vision. Several of the heavier songs which were initially intended for "Strange and Beautiful" actually wound up on the "Astronomica" record several years later. Examples would be "Touch the Sun", "War of the Worlds" and "Edge of Forever".
  
Midnight left the band prior to the start of the tour and one year later, Crimson Glory broke up. Why Midnight did retired from the band and why did Crimson Glory stopped?

Jeff Lords: Midnight had started to succumb to the pressures of having to live up to the fan's expectations live. This drove him to drink in excess as a means to cope with this pressure, and this took its toll after "Transcendence" and even during the making of "Strange and Beautiful". This is why the vocals are mixed so quietly compared to previous albums. With the album finished, like any signed band, we were expected to play some shows. In rehearsals, it became clear to Jon, myself, and new drummer Ravi (Jakhotia), that Midnight didn't have the mental capacity or physical stamina to front the band live anymore, so we had little choice but to replace him at that point. 

Jon Drenning: It’s well known now throughout the world that Midnight had a severe addiction to alcohol, which he was constantly battling to the detriment of both himself and the band. It was really like having Jim Morrison in the band. He was our voice, our soul, and our demons, all combined.  Unfortunately it’s simply not sustainable form the standpoint of live performances. It was a daily struggle, having to care for and provide for Midnight which really took its toll on all of us. We loved him dearly, but we knew that ultimately we were forced to have a different singer. 

Let's move forward to 1999, when "Astronomica" was released. Were all the songs written for that album? I always had in mind that "Touch the Sun" was an older composition written as a follow up to "Transcendence" and you just confirmed that. Did you approach Midnight before the recordings and how did you come up with Wade Black?

Jon Drenning: The idea with Wade was that I’d previously seen him perform with a local band in Tampa at a smaller event, and Jeff was with me at the time, we were both really impressed at the power he displayed onstage. After the show, we introduced ourselves and told him what we thought. I got his number written down on a small piece of paper and I stored it away in a drawer for five years! So, when the time was right, I dug it out and called him up out of the blue, asking if he’d be interested in singing on some demos we were recording at my house. I believe he was working at a garage shop of some kind working on cars… In any event, reason being, was that Midnight, who was supposed to be coming to my house to record the new songs, was so deep into his alcohol addiction at that time that he was unable to rise to the occasion. I believe he really wanted to, but he just couldn’t manage it. We tried on several occasion to get him going again, but ultimately failed in our attempts. In a way, Wade was a stop-gap. He was a very powerful singer, but lacked many if the traits we feel he needed to continue as our singer. We always hoped Midnight would return to us one day, but it just wasn’t in the stars.

Why did you split up again?

Jon Drenning: While Jeff and I were proud of what Wade managed to accomplish with the "Astronomica" record, we knew that we needed more than just a great singer; we needed a lyricist/songwriter as well. Someone who could convey melody and emotion like Midnight. But truly, who really could?


I have to admit this: I've seen Crimson Glory with Wade Black during Astronomica Tour in Greece, with Midnight in Greece again in 2006, and later with Todd La Torre, but the show with Wade Black is by far my favorite one. There were many ups and downs and a continued uncertainty, but do you have any new songs written over the last years and do you think there will be something to wait for in the future?

Jon Drenning: Of course I have songs written that I had planned for the next Crimson Glory record, as I’m sure Jeff and Ben did. But as for the future, you never say never… The stars could align just right someday.


Never say never... But what about Jeff Lords and Ben Jackson?


Crimson Glory seem inactive but I assume that musicians of your talent are still active in music industry. So what have you done after the last shows with Todd LaTorre (vocals) and how do you see the music industry today?

Jeff Lords: I've been involved in my own project called Dark Matter since the departure of Todd (LaTorre), so this keeps me busy and my mind occupied. Our second effort "Encipher" was well received and we felt we had found our niche, so now we're currently writing for our third effort, and ironically, we recently revamped an old Crimson Glory song off the debut album and it was even mixed by the Jim Morris, the guy who mixed the original version of the song three decades ago. I say we "revamped" it, because while we kept the skeleton of the original, we definitely stacked more muscle on it. In fact, the song even morphs into Dark Matter at the end. We made it our own, rather than just mimic it.

How I see the music industry is that it's the same cut-throat business that it's always been, worse in some ways, and yet better in some ways with the advent of digital. Worse because if someone really wants your music without paying for it, they can achieve this. Better because albums can be made/produced without going into the red and subsequently owing your soul to a record label.

You can check Dark Matter HERE and join of Facebook HERE

 
Ben Jackson: Crimson Glory is a closed book at this point and I am really enjoying myself with my present band Avenging Benji. I get all the creative freedom I ever wished for in this band. Great and talented people and no drama. We have a new record coming out in 2019 and we did a European tour last May of 2018 that went over very well. The music business is ever changing and always challenging. Many fans get there music for free these days by waiting until they can download it. It's difficult to be successful as a band in today’s scene unless you tour a lot. But it's still rewarding in many ways if you enjoy what you're doing and maintain the right attitude.

You can join Avenging Benji on Facebook HERE

 
Crimson Glory have written history. And as Jon Drenning said, who knows, maybe the stars could align just right someday. The adventure might have more to show in the future and I am sure that such talented artists like Jon Drenning, Jeff Lords, Ben Jackson and Dana Burnell, will find the will, the way and a voice that will lead again the starship beyond the electric sky.


It does not mean the end. It never really ends.