CRESCENT SHIELD
"The Last of My Kind"

(Cruz Del Sur)

01. Above Mere Mortals
02. Slaves to the Metal Horde
03. Rise of the Red Crescent Moon
04. Burn with Life
05. The Last of My Kind
06. North for the Winter
07. The Path Once Chosen
08. The Great Devoid
09. Unfinished Ashes
10. Await the Champion
11. The Passing

RATING: 8.5/10

We need more discs like CRESCENT SHIELD's "The Last of My Kind" to remind us of the classic metal sound of old and just how refreshing it can be in this metalcore-saturated world. The Los Angels band, featuring ex-DESTINY'S END guitarist Daniel DeLucie and ex-ONWARD vocalist Michael Grant, unleashes 50 minutes of riffs, solos, galloping tempos, and melodies straight from the golden age of metal. A dash of early FATES WARNING and IRON MAIDEN, and even modern-day throwback bands like SLOUGH FEG and PHARAOH may give one a general idea of what's in store, but in no way means that "The Last of My Kind" is without its own unique identity.

With a lineup that also includes drummer Craig Anderson (ex-IGNITE, ENGINE) and bassist Melanie Sisneros (ex-NEW EDEN, THE IRON MAIDENS, SINERGY), CRESCENT SHIELD creates a nearly flawless combination of metallic heft and memorable songwriting. Grant's mid-range vocals are a tad quirky and somewhat non-traditional, but ultimately very likeable. Like the songwriting as a whole, the peculiarity takes a couple of listens to fully appreciate, but that same quality soon reveals itself to be another of the album's endearing characteristics. While we're at it, throw in an organic sound and natural (read: not studio sterility) feel.

The anthems come early, as the first two tracks, "Above Mere Mortals" ("Rising, flying, above mere mortals / heed the call of metal warriors – ride high!") and "Slaves to the Metal Horde" ("Ever strong, ever hail, never fall, never fail / you will listen to the metal horde!") demonstrate. Both songs are odes to the mighty riff, the glory of a searing solo, and a fist-in-the-air vocal performance. The early MAIDEN elements are heard on the loping "Rise of the Red Crescent Moon", featuring the disc's most catchy chorus. A strong command of tempo changes and coloring is evident on the title track. Opening with an acoustic guitar and a melodic lead that gives way to more heaviness, several changeups and a sliver of folk make it another keeper as well. "North for the Winter" also contains a bit of that aforementioned folkiness, the piano section that ends the tune a nice touch. Solos are more than just individualist showcases too; they are integral parts of the song. The hard-edged and up-tempo "The Path Once Chosen" switches to a killer rhythm guitar part that launches a lead with a monstrous impact, while a quiet section builds tension for a solo explosion on "Unfinished Ashes". The album ends with one of the group's most intelligently constructed arrangements. Beginning with a naked vocal and moving into a beautiful acoustic passage followed by a mid-tempo march and soaring sections of melody, the track is an epic close to the proceedings.

With so few releases of this kind coming out nowadays, one can become carried with praise for an album like "The Last of My Kind". Still, there is no question that the disc is an excellent slab of traditional heavy metal. Not quite achieving the excellence of PHARAOH's "The Longest Night", but certainly coming close. It is not that new ground is broken; only that CRESCENT SHIELD has a commanding grasp of the style and a flair for penning quality, old-school heavy metal tunes. Well done!

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