Genre: Hard Rock, traditional
Its hard to imagine this is the ninth studio record from Dutch traditionalists Vengeance and even harder to fathom that "Crystal Eye" marks the third release since the band reformed in 2006. The band has been a powerhouse of hard rock and traditional metal dating back to the early 80s, even seeing a run on CBS back in the day and daunted as a rare export that could be huge in the US. It never happened and vocalist Leon Gowie became a drywall hanger. Then in 2006 the band reformed and released the pleasant "Back In The Ring" and follow-up "Soul Collector" in 2009.
Once again the band pairs with producer Michael Voss (Mad Max) and looks for that solid polished hard rock sound reminiscent of Van Halen meets Accept. The record has some emotional meaning to the group; this was the final work recorded by long time guitarist Jan Somers. The talented axe man had been with the group since record three in 1988. He died of a heart attack in January of 2011 and there is a fitting solo that Somers recorded live on the end of this album as a tribute to his legacy.
"Crystal Eye" is a very bland record for me personally and just has no lift in the songs to really make them exceptional or even stand out amongst the group's prior work. I swear that this album is a dead pan ringer for the complacent and downright lazy songwriting that Saxon was dealing with in the late 80s. With terrible songs and names like "Bad To The Bone", "Barbecue" (no shit) and awful ballad "Missing" one has to wonder why Gowie and company felt the need to release some of this. You can hear some vintage sound in "Me And You", the light hearted "Five Knuckle Shuffle" and "Desperate Women" to prove the guys still have the hard rock intensity and play to perfection with Gowie's strong vocals and charismatic style. I really wish there was more here to lift this album up but the title track, "Promise Me" and "Shock Me Now" just fall flat. I can hear everything from the bluesy, generic riffs of AC/DC to bad Scorpions and this really isn't the calling card of a band like Vengeance. Let's hope they can regroup and put writing and substance ahead of fluff.