Crystal Coffin - The Starway Eternal
A Beast in the Field
Melodic Black Metal
8 songs (42'51")
Release year: 2021
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

I have been on the roll with melodic black metal records as of late picking albums from bands I haven’t heard before (Necronautical) and those who impressed me in the past (Wormwood). Vancouver, CA, Crystal Coffin was a blind pick based on the fact the members have Eastern European origin, the lyrical concept is very interesting (more on that later) and one of the members, Lenkyn Ostapovich, supposedly handles balalaika. I haven’t heard a hint of balalaika on The Starway Eternal and, you know what, it is for the better. Bringing that folk instrument on this album would have been a mood destroying gimmick.

What we have, however, in The Starway Eternal is one solid, ultramelodic album residing somewhere in the region where black metal meets progressive. Speaking of the mood, Crystal Coffin create dark, glum, gloomy disposition, right from the start (Shapeshifter Huntsman), which fits the story they are trying to tell. Often enough the band follows the template of keeping their ever so slightly shifting melody central, providing keyboard arrangements without the instrument becoming overbearing, buttressing everything with mechanistic but tight drumming and delivering vocals in a harsh, but not superextreme manner (Shapeshifter Huntsman, Skeletons, Console of Horror, Mega Tomb (Including Tomorrow's Ghost)). Imagine meandering under obsidian night sky, or floating up in the universe zooming between black holes, with vocals at times becoming more vomitous (Skeletons) or melodies getting particular despondent and even macabre (Mega Tomb (Including Tomorrow's Ghost), Console of Horror). The title track adds an extra level of harshness, elevates aggression and combines thrash and electronics, with guitar leads coming at the listener in dynamic waves. Entrenched in place, The Starway Eternal main pattern of delivery does make you long for the band to go on some adventures. They do so in a way of symphonic and quiet pauses (title track), well placed quiet desperation interlude Cremation: Between Fire and Ice, after which militaristic riffing of The Descent seems to be particularly hitting. Another deviation from the blacker side of things is clean vocal Depeche Mode (at least for a half) sung The Red Forest, where gothic pulsating rhythm is quite different from the rest of the album, and music sounds like Evereve Stormbirds once more extreme vocals return. Distorted radio speaker apocalyptic voice completes the picture.

Speaking of apocalypsis, time to discuss The Starway Eternal concept. An operator from a doomed Chernobyl nuclear plant (here is the connection with Eastern Europe) discovers a time/space travel portal behind one of the consoles. Using this gateway the protagonist manages to travel in time (to Eastern Europe as well, my understanding) to observe some of history’s atrocities and unfairness. After one of those trips the hero discovers that Chernobyl suffered its fatal accident and the portal is now closed. Unable to return the leading character commits virtual and physical suicide by entering the reality in a fiery final descent.

Crystal Coffin cite Enslaved and Wolves in the Throne Room as their influences. I don’t find The Starway Eternal as fuzzy, atmospheric and Cascadian as Wolves in the Throne Room, and while operating away from the black metal mainstream, Crystal Coffin does not weird out as much as Enslaved does sometimes. In fact, in some instances, especially when they remain committed to their rigid template, I find them similar to some of the Quebecois metal bands, like Deletere, Forteresse or Neige et Noirciere (without being ambient). Whatever the Canadian coast, The Starway Eternal was an excellent experience which will definitely hold up to repeated listens and I’m recommending this to my son, both for musical quality and interesting lyrical concept.

Killing Songs :
Shapeshifter Huntsman, The Starway Eternal, The Descent
Alex quoted 85 / 100
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