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Crystal Palace - The System Of Events CD (album) cover


Crystal Palace



3.92 | 87 ratings

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5 stars Crystal Palace is not the British football team named after a famous Victorian landmark in London but a German neo-prog band that has had a quiet career up to now. For their sixth release, ''The System of Events'' , the band has done some major improvements , namely a fabulous cover with mesmerizing appeal, the enlistment of some famous sidemen in RPWL's Kalle Wallner and Yogi Lang but also the celebrated Porcupine Tree bass man Colin Edwin and finally some punchy material that rocks, spooks and titillates. Their sound is squarely in the PT mold with hard-hitting moody pieces and expert playing by all instrumentalists

''Chasing Better Days'' is a scorching opening salvo, a dark and somber universe where pinging synths leap over ponging drums, harsh bass blasting the road ahead, crunchy guitars boldly marching forward. Lead vocalist Yenz has a pleasant enough voice, mostly hushed in the verse then veering towards a more assertive yelp in the chorus. I detect a slight classic Golden Earring tinge that has more keyboards, a slew of electronic effects to add spice and heat. The song is immediately appealing and has tons of staying power over repeated visits.

The bruising ''As Heaven Dies'' is another doom-laden affair, Nils Conrad thrashing hard on his axe, the pace depth charge-laden and robotic , the keys showing a sense of playful fantasy that owes a lot to PT man Richard Barbieri while the bass and drums pounding loudly. Lots of contrast with softer acoustic interludes, the song becomes a sure-fire pleasure in the playlist.

The acme is reached on the imperial ''Beautiful Nightmare'', a 12 minute groove fest that has the hallmarks of classic prog stamped all over it, an obsessively clanging guitar riff introduces a first section full of invention and atmosphere, Yenz singing emotionally over pools of piano droplets. The chorus is reminiscent of vintage RPWL, smooth as silk yet tinged with a certain sense of discomfort expressed by the brooding lyrics. But where this arrangement just goes off the charts is the segue into a Led Zep-like mood fest a la ''No Quarter'', bombastic drum beat from stickman Frank Brennekam, synthesized electric-piano pillows, and shriekingly obsessive guitar licks. In fact, Conrad does a little Page/Hendrix show on his guitar neck, wringing all kinds of emotional juice out of his beleaguered instrument. Words cannot describe the forceful quality of this masterpiece! With lyrics like ''I Like to watch, I like to touch but I need to stop'', it also sends massive amounts of eeriness to the receptive brain. And just like any nightmare, it has a slightly positive shift in pace, by letting the sun in for some reality.

In a master stroke of genius, the band has constructed a logical contrast to the gruesome dread by waking up to bright shiny and uplifting song. Really? The rays shine through the blinds, the aroma of fresh coffee caressing the nose, the body revitalized is now smiling. ''Green Way'' is a perfect prog-pop song that would induce smiles from even the staunchest prog freak, a mercifully gorgeous guitar solo reaching for the noon zenith, the wondrously positive lyrics and upbeat disposition. 'Meinen Herren, wirklich ausgezeichnet!' I must applaud musical intelligence when it is so brilliantly obvious and in this context, this is lovely stuff, indeed. Well played, well crafted.

But hey, these guys are no pop star wannabees, they are dense and tense rockers who like to stretch the limits of their muse, so what better material then the worst case scenario possible, the inability to rest and refresh. ''Sleepless' proposes a pile driving beat that ushers in another heavy slab of molten concrete neo-prog, slamming hard and dis- comfortably, the raunchy fret board coughing raspy riffs, Yenz crying ''dreams crash and burn, can't find peace of mind'' with wobbly conviction. Yeah, this is more groove-led doom and gloom, I guess it's back to reality, err.......the darker one. This is closer to 'In Absentia' or even 'Fear of a Blank Planet' in terms of style and pace, not exactly the worst reference one can think of. Pounding and relentless, ultimately unforgiving with keysman Frank Kohler doing some lovely colorations.

Speaking of which, he introduces a forlorn piano for the troubling and psychotic 'Stunned by the Silence', a gruesome subject matter that has quickly become the scourge of the 21st century. What a world we live in when going to school is equated with ultimate lethal danger, be it in Norway, Afghanistan, Beslan, Dunblane, Sandy Hook and closer to home for the band , in Winnenden and Erfurt, Germany. Its a world-wide epidemic that has no solutions. Needless to say, this is a sad, sad song.

''Breathe'' is heavy, weighty and hefty, giving no mercy to the gulping audience, another 10 minute+ epic conflagration that devastates everything in its passage. As the title implies, there is a disquieting sense of claustrophobia (Ja, Klaus!), of choking pain interrupted only by seismic coughing, led by a gritty guitar and a Formula One rhythm section that takes no prisoners. Cinemascope synthesizer walls only enhance the stranglehold and the chorus is encompassing and panoramic. Changes in contrast only highlights the deep agony. Just marvelous music!

This tremendous recording rolls into the terminus with the epic title track, perhaps the most ambitious piece yet, clocking in just over 13 minutes and infusing a vast variety of new wrinkles. It starts off somewhat innocuously, almost like a Supertramp song, with forceful piano and penetrating voice up front and center. Smooth and hummable, the arrangement delves into a philosophical debate on the nature of humanity ('And in the end, it's all the same, we are the pawns of destiny'), the systemization of our routine, a fake world where news is never new, where politics is never about the people, where using technology only promotes addiction and willing subservience. Mellotron soothes the CNN flash effects but cannot erase the endless violence, the social suffering and the desensitization of our brave new world order. Issues that too few musical artists dare to address, it's good to see and hear of a neo-prog band that does it with so much flair. The choir-laden finale has a jewel-like gleam that hits home with complete satisfaction, perhaps the ideal Floydian moment on this disc.

A damn fine album that has no weak or soft moments, no dialing in or cruise control. A total package of perfection !

5 schemes of procedure

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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