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To this day, SINISTER REALM's 2008 demo ranks among the best demos that I received in the course of the last five years. The subsequent self-titled debut album in 2009 lived up to expectations in terms of both quality and craftmanship with the result that SINISTER REALM soon became an insider tip for all fans of doom-infused heavy metal. Since then, two years have passed, and a few things have changed. One the one hand, drummer Darin McCloskey (Pale Divine, Falcon) left the band and, on the other, SINISTER REALM has made further inroads into traditional heavy metal territory, without losing that dark and menacing vibe. This shows up in the second album, 'The Crystal Eye', released by Shadow Kingdom Records in 2011. And despite all the appreciation of tradition that is present here, SINISTER REALM has an innate gift for carrying the heavy metal torch into the new era. The main reason for this is that 'The Crystal Eye' is amazingly fresh and powerful.

Moreover, it has a really timeless feel what leads to the fact that one gets the impression of listening to a classic album. To put it concisely: 'The Crystal Eye' is simply incredible from start to finish and every song on here is a winner. 'Winds Of Vengeance' is a fiery opener with great energy and speedy riffs. The double guitar attack of John Risko and John Kantner is every bit as powerful as Alex Kristof's excellent vocal delivery, matching blow by blow for sheer force. His voice is emotional, richly faceted and gives the songs the majesty and seriousness they need. To this we have to add a tight rhythm section made up of bassist John Shamus Gaffney and drummer Chris Metzger. Needless to say, this combo works extremely well.

But now back to the songs: 'The Shroud Of Misery' provides a perfect connection between epic doom and heavy metal with some nice acoustic guitars while 'With Swords Held High' is a great rocking metal anthem with more magnificent riffs that really get into your ears, and stay there forever. One of the most epic songs on this album is the title track which shows again the band's distinct penchant for Dio/Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath. However, as was mentioned earlier, SINISTER REALM is not a cheap copy of their musical role models but rather on an equal footing. The positive picture of 'The Crystal Eye' is completed by a strong production, so that I have nothing to complain about. Additionally there is a tasteful booklet in the usual Shadow Kingdom quality. Overall, this is an excellent package, and there is no reason to ignore 'The Crystal Eye', especially if you have a particular place in your heart for classic heavy metal. I can only hope that SINISTER REALM at last achieve the breakthrough because they really do deserve it. Bottom line: Highly recommendable!