Transcendence (1988) is the second full-length album by US metal act Crimson Glory. 1988 was quite a special year for metal music in my opinion. Not only did Iron Maiden put out their classic Seventh Son of a Seventh Son in 1988, Metallica also produced their last really excellent record in ...And Justice for All. Most metalheads probably know of those records (and if you don't you must be living under a rock or something). But I wonder if they also know about how much the power metal scene, that's both the European and US varieties, was flourishing in 1988? In Germany Helloween released Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II and Running Wild released Port Royal. Though still more of a speed metal act at that point, Blind Guardian also made their debut with Battalions of Fear. Crimson Glory's Transcendence belongs to the USPM side of the genre where in 1988 it had good company with Attacker's The Second Coming, Liege Lord's Master Control and Helstar's A Distant Thunder. Yeah, 1988 was power metal's year and I don't care who says otherwise.
The thing with Transcendence in all of this is that it's probably the most different album of the lot. USPM usually leans towards one of two ways, a harder edged sound or a more melodic sound that some refer to as blue-collar and white-collar USPM respectively. All those other releases I mentioned are of the harder kind. Transcendence focuses on the melodic side. The album is now commonly considered, along with the band's self-titled debut from 1986, to be one of the quintessential textbook albums of this sound and for good reason.
It's 2015 now which makes Transcendence twenty-seven years old at the time of writing and it's interesting to see how divided modern metalheads are on what this album actually is. I personally would belong to the group that acknowledges Transcendence as a USPM classic if forced to decide, but just as many metalheads now see the album as an early example of progressive metal, in a not too dissimilar way to how the earlier works of Fates Warning are regarded (personally I would regard Fates Warning's Awaken the Guardian (1986) as more of a USPM release as well). More still now believe artists like Crimson Glory were just traditional metal bands. In truth, I would say that there is no single right answer here or no wrong ones. Calling a releases like Transcendence progressive heavy/power metal is about the most accurate description you could find for Crimson Glory's music, though if you came to this release expecting modern or even early 90's standards for progressive metal, you'd probably come away disappointed. In my view the album's main appeal with always rest with traditional metal and power metal fans.
There's one song I really want to talk about more than any other from Transcendence. Red Sharks. It's the second track into the ten track album and was the first Crimson Glory song I ever heard. At the time my tastes were a bit different and I didn't go much on it, but as I got more into power metal I found an appreciate for the song and band in general and I believe I can say with confidence that Red Sharks is my favourite Crimson Glory song. A mini-masterpiece of some of the album's faster riffs, excellent melodies and killer vocals from singer Midnight (real name John Patrick McDonald, Jr.). The high register vocals nearer the end are especially good. Midnight sadly died in 2009 (Anyone else ever noticed that dying young seems to have been the fate of many vocalists from USPM acts?) and this song alone shows how much of a loss he was to the metal scene.
The album is excellent from start to finish though. Red Sharks is the highlight but certainly not one without competition from the rest of the album. Lady of Winter, Masque of the Red Death, Eternal World...all equally killer tracks. For me the album as a whole proved to be a grower but ultimately it's hard not to acknowledge that Transcendence fully deserves the classic status it is commonly deemed to hold. Metalheads around the world may not agree exactly what type of metal it is a classic of, but it's certainly one that all should be making an effort to check out whether they missed it at the time or were born later and may not have heard of Crimson Glory before. They sadly didn't leave that much of a legacy after the 80's. After Transcendence the band released Strange and Beautiful (1991), a very different record that I personally don't consider metal and after which they broke up. Reforming for a time in 1999 without Midnight they produced a fourth album, Astronomica (1999), a return to metal but in my opinion it lacked the magic of the first two albums. As far as anyone knows the band has been technically active again since 2005 and were for a time fronted by Todd La Torre (who replaced Geoff Tate in Queensrÿche in 2012), but they since seem to have faded into obscurity again, with Todd La Torre known to have quit in 2013. A crying shame really considering the strengths of both Transcendence and it's predecessor but that's how these things go sometimes I guess. 5 stars.