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Crystal Phoenix - Crystal Phoenix CD (album) cover


Crystal Phoenix


Prog Folk

2.79 | 15 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Crystal Phoenix' - Crystal Phoenix (5/10)

The first album released from prog and doom label Black Widow records, Crystal Phoenix's debut is an obscure piece of art, long overlooked even by aficionados of the Italian progressive scene. Essentially the solo project of singer and multi-instrumentalist Myriam Saglimbeni, the music here is a strange brand of Medieval folk, with the occasional neoclassical metal kick. From a distance, Crystal Phoenix is a very promising act; one with a strange, atmospheric style that at times reminds me of the UK prog-folk masters Comus. Though Saglimbeni's original sound could have been an ample breeding ground for an underground gem, this debut suffers from a few too many weaknesses in the execution. The potential is here; it's simply not realized.

From the first track 'Damned Warrior' alone, one might think Crystal Phoenix is a neoclassical shredfest. At least from a compositional standpoint, it's as if Yngwie Malmsteen decided to stand in as the guitarist for Iron Maiden. An instrumental piece, 'Damned Warrior' is a fair demonstration of Myriam's skill as a guitarist. Her lead playing is pleasantly fluent, although her greatest strength is as a vocalist. In fact, everything following this point tosses away the metal sound in turn for a more brooding folk style. '474 Anno Domini' is the best track from the album; featuring some interplay between feudal harps and dark acoustic guitars that would sound out of place on an Opeth record. This palette of sound feels more natural for Saglimbeni's sense of composition, which relies largely on atmosphere and gloomy melody.

'Somewhere, Nowhere Battle' is another excellent display of acoustic minstrelsy 'Loth-er Siniell' is a transition between the atmospheric neofolk and a more 'epic' scope that fuels the latter half. The final two songs bring a more rock-focus to the music, although the same Medieval atmosphere gets through. Giving Crystal Phoenix its greatest sense of distinctiveness is Myriam Saglimbeni's voice, which I also think will be the greatest point of division between listeners. Her voice has quite a range to it on the album, going from a very low croon on '474 Anno Domini' to higher pitched vocals that get intense and strained without much warning. At her most fierce, I might compare her voice to Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd) when he conjures the madman inside. Myriam's voice sounds odd at times, but it is one of the best things Crystal Phoenix has going for it.

Musically, the most successful thing is the acoustic guitar work, which never fails to bring up some sort of atmosphere. Sadly, just about everything else on this album- including the vocals- suffers terribly from a bleak studio production. Although I said 'Damned Warrior' had some great lead playing, it becomes a less enjoyable experience when the rhythm guitars sound as shallow as a kiddie pool, and the drums fall upon a lifeless budget program. This lo-fi production does benefit the gloomy mood of the purely acoustic tracks, but whenever something more elaborate comes in, the music feels the strain of a very weak production and largely hollow instrumentation. Had Crystal Phoenix enjoyed a decent studio sound, it's likely that I would have found a lot to like here. Myriam Saglimbeni did almost everything here, from the vocals to the instruments to the cover art. As such, it's not surprising that Crystal Phoenix falls into the 'solo artist' trap of having a handful of things excel and the expense of the rest.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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