Traveling The Corridors Of Time And Beyond with Crystal Eyes
Traveling The Corridors Of Time And Beyond with Crystal Eyes
The rich and glorious history of Crystal Eyes commenced in 1992, and really slammed into the heavy metal stratosphere with the release of their debut album World Of Black And Silver in 1999! Starbourne Traveler is their 8th almighty magnum opus from the Massacre Records compound released in December 2019, jammed packed with metal anthems that will make you want to take on the world. Crystal Eyes has opened for the likes of Blind Guardian and Yngwie Malmsteen, and continues to enrapture fans all across the planet with their dynamic auditory entreatries. Highwire Daze recently interviewed Crystal Eyes founding member Mikael Dahl to find out a whole lot more about their brand new album Starbourne Traveler, opening for the legendary Yngwire Malmsteen, revisting their first two albums, and a whole lot more! Read on as we travel the corridors of time with Crystal Eyes…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Crystal Eyes, and how long the band has been together.
My name is Mikael Dahl and I’m the singer, guitarist, songwriter and founder of the band which I started in 1992. The rest of today’s line up is Claes Wikander on bass, Jonatan Hallberg on guitar and Henrik Birgersson on drums.
Where is the band based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
We’re based in Borås in Sweden, a pretty small town with 73000 residents. The local scene is really nothing to talk about. Only a few bands beside Crystal Eyes have released albums. For example Zonata, Freternia, Lake Of Tears, Cemetary and Conviction. The live scene is completely dead in this town but Gothenburg is only 60 kilometres away and bands from everywhere are playing there all the time.
Is there any overall story or concept behind the Starbourne Traveler album title?
The lyrics is dream about leaving the Earth to fly free among the stars in outer space. A kind of dream that was easy to visualize as a front cover which was the reason why we choose this as the title of the album.
Select two songs from Starbourne Traveler and what inspired the lyrics.
“Gods Of Disorder” is a tribute to the past and a couple of bands that had a huge impact on me as a kid. I had already discovered Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy, Scorpions, Accept etc. but sometime around 1984 the videos of Mötley Crūe, Twisted Sister and W.A.S.P just popped right out of the TV and to me they we’re like superheroes and everything I wanted to be. I filled my room with their posters and articles and of course bought their albums which I still love.
“Midnight Radio” is my tribute the Swedish radio show “Rockbox”. It was like my older brother through the eighties and the place where I found 99% of the music that I still listen to. Every Saturday I was waiting with my double cassette player ready to record and after the show I copied the best songs to another tape. All those tapes are still with me. I have so many memories of all great bands and songs I heard for the first time on this show and voice of the radio host Pär Fontander is forever stuck in my head.
Who did the cover art for Starbourne Traveler and how much input did you have on it?
His name is Gyula Havancsák and we gave him a pretty clear vision of what we wanted. We wanted the same kind of colours as we had on our first 3 albums and we told him we were looking for something in the veins of Crimson Glory’s “Transcendence” album. We also sent him a couple of pictures of superheroes including the Silver Surfer as inspiration. I think it’s the best looking Crystal Eyes cover ever and we’re extremely satisfied with it.
What was it like opening for Yngwie Malmsteen? Did you get to meet or hang out with him at all?
It was a big deal for us and it was really nervous for everyone. Especially our second guitarist at the time because Yngwie was watching our whole gig from beside the stage just 1 meter from him and he was completely paralysed. Right after the show Yngwie came into our dressing room and said: “Great gig guys!”. After his gig we talked to him and his wife and they were very friendly. Marcel Jacobs who played the bass with him told us that we were lucky because Yngwie had a good day and that wasn’t always the case. And the singer Mark Boals was a great guy and I was just starstruck talking to him because he’s one of my all time favourite singers.
If Crystal Eyes could open for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Judas Priest is my all time favourite band and it’s always been a big dream to open for them. I’m also the singer of a Judas Priest tribute band called Defenders Of The Faith since 1993.
Has Crystal Eyes ever played in the States or plan to do so in future days?
We haven’t played in the States but we really hope to get there some day.
Who are the two new members in Crystal Eyes and how did they become involved with the band?
I met Henrik Birgersson at work in 2014 and we just clicked. We had the same musical taste and loved the same bands and musicians. Even though I’d never heard him play I invited him for an audition with Defenders Of The Faith and he just blew us away. Without any doubt the best drummer I’ve ever played with and then he was of course perfect for Crystal Eyes when we tried that 2 years later.
The first time I met Jonatan Hallberg, he was recording a demo with his band Amnesia in our studio and it felt like I just met myself 20 years ago. He was a young hungry guitar player and just like me he thought the song and the melodies were the most important thing. I had his name on my mind the whole time, and when we needed a new guitar player for Crystal Eyes, he was our only choice. He has a great taste for melodies and his solos fits right in with mine and the fact that he’s 1 year younger than the band itself just makes the rest of us feel younger. And of course his great sense of humour makes everything a little more easy. The most important thing with Henrik and Jonatan is that they brought new life to the band which in the end affected everything in the music with a very happy and positive vibe.
What do you think has made Claes and Mikael work so well together throughout the years in Crystal Eyes?
I’ve known Claes since the eighties when we both played with different bands on local gigs, and when Crystal Eyes needed a bass player in 1997 I asked him to join, and he’s been with me ever since. I’ve always been the one writing the music and Claes have been the one taking care of all technical stuff. Without him we wouldn’t have our own recording studio where we’ve recorded our last 6 albums. We have the same taste when it comes to music and his input has always been important in my song writing because he’s very honest. There’s no way I could do this without Claes.
When you look back on the World Of Black and Silver, your debut album from 1999 (20 years ago!), what do you think of it in retrospect? And what was it like to revisit two of those songs for this new album?
The years before and around the time of “World Of Black And Silver,” I was very much into bands like Helloween, Gamma Ray, Heavens Gate, Scanner, Blind Guardian etc and that’s probably a big reason to why there are so many fast songs on that album. I’m still very proud of it and I still love the songs, but the production is really not good at all. When we bought the rights for the first 2 albums, we talked about remixing them but was told that the master-tapes were erased. Then we talked about re-recordings for years and when the 20-anniversary got closer we decided to do 1 song and we picked “Rage On The Sea” since it had remained in our live-set since day one. With a couple of months left to the recording, Claes came up with the idea to also record “Extreme Paranoia” for a possible bonus track or B-side since that was another track that have remained in the live-set, but when we heard the final result we just couldn̵