Crimson Glory was an American heavy metal band that formed in 1983 in Sarasota, Florida. They started in 1979 under the monikers ‘Pierced Arrow’, then ‘Beowulf’, before settling on Crimson Glory. The classic line-up consisted of vocalist Midnight, guitarists Jon Drenning and Ben Jackson, bassist Jeff Lords, and drummer Dana Burnell. With that line-up, they rose to international fame in the mid-1980s and were considered one of the pioneers of the American progressive metal movement, along with Queensrÿche, Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Watchtower. During their career, they released four studio albums and one EP.
Background and formation (1979-1983)
Crimson Glory was formed in Sarasota, Florida in 1979 under the name ‘Pierced Arrow’ (later changed to ‘Beowulf’). Pierced Arrow line-up consisted of Tony Wise on vocals, Bernardo Hernandez and Ben Jackson on guitars, Glen Barnhardt on bass (later replaced by Jeff Lords), and Dana Burnell on drums. Hernandez and Lords were replaced by Chris Campbell and John Colemorgan respectively in late 1981, and in early 1982, the band changed name to “Beowulf”. In 1983, the band changed bassist, guitarist and vocals. Lords rejoined, Chris Campbell was replaced by Jon Drenning and Tony Wise by Mark Ormes. Later Mark Ormes left and while searching for a singer, the group found an old school mate of Jeff Lords, John Patrick McDonald (later known as Midnight), singing on the beach. They later changed their name to Crimson Glory after a rose hybrid.
Wise later surfaced in the band Tyger Tyger, and also released a solo album “Germania” before his death from diabetes in 2012.
Crimson Glory (1983–1987)
They rehearsed for four years before recording their self-titled debut album, produced by Dan Johnson, on Par Records in 1986. This would later be re-issued after signing on with their new label, Roadrunner Records (then called Roadracer Records). Tight dual-lead harmonies and soaring vocals would feature prominently on this release. They later toured Europe in support of Celtic Frost and Anthrax. They played at the 1987 Hammersmith Odeon.
In an era of sound-and-lookalike metal bands, Crimson Glory’s goal was to be immediately identifiable from the others, so they wore full-face metallic silver masks. They used them on-stage, as well as for all photo shoots and public appearances. Vocalist Midnight was the exception to this, as his mask left his mouth uncovered.
Their next release, Transcendence was released under Roadrunner Records in Europe and MCA Records in the United States. It contained the song Lonely, which was their first hit-single and music video.
Transcendence was a landmark in the genre, often cited as one of the greatest progressive metal albums of all time, best metal albums of the decade, and an influence by many bands like Cage, Triosphere and Rhapsody of Fire. The album garnered them much praise and attention, both at home and abroad. They were on the cover of Kerrang! magazine in May 1989.
They later toured North America, Europe and Japan with the bands Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Queensrÿche, U.D.O., Doro, and Anthrax. Their biggest show was in the Metal Hammer Festival in Dortmund, Germany in front of 20,000 fans in the spring 1990.
While on tour in support of their self-titled debut album, they discovered how hot the masks would be on stage. To keep the mystique, they cut them down into a partial “Phantom of the Opera” style for the Transcendence tour.
While touring behind Transcendence, they performed in front of 5,000 spectators at the Manatee Civic Center in their hometown of Bradenton, Florida on September 2, 1989. This concert was simulcast across America on Z Rock Radio. There were plans to release this show on DVD. In addition, the band performed “In Dark Places” at the 1989 Tampa Bay Music Awards and walked away with three awards that night – Most Outstanding Male Vocalist (Midnight), Most Outstanding Local Release (Transcendence) and Most Outstanding Metal Band (beating fellow Florida band Savatage for this one).
When the tour ended, drummer Dana Burnell and guitarist Ben Jackson decided to leave the group. Ben Jackson would later form the band Parish, which released an album titled Envision in 1995.
Strange and Beautiful (1990–1992)
Burnell would be replaced by Ravi Jakhotia in 1991, who brought a decidedly more “tribal” feel to the band. The material they would write for their next album was more hard rock oriented and based more upon drum grooves as opposed to guitar riffs, on which their first two albums were largely based. Also Midnight became more involved in the composition of the album. It signified a bold and definite shift away from the metal sound upon which the band had built their reputation. It was at this time the band continued on as a four-piece.
The revamped group was signed to Atlantic Records and released their third album, entitled Strange and Beautiful. Prior to the start of the tour, vocalist Midnight departed as well and retired from the music business for a decade. Guitarist Jon Drenning recruited vocalist David Van Landing as a replacement for Midnight on what would be a short-lived tour in the US. The biggest show of the tour was at the end of the year in Los Angeles at the Concrete Foundations Forum along with Ozzy Osbourne, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.
In 1994, Jon Drenning moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and formed the band Crush with Lords, Jakhotia and singer Billy Martinez. In 1995, the band would release one self-titled album under that moniker on Paradigm Records.  Crush would break up and reform a year later as Erotic Liquid Culture with former Crimson Glory touring vocalist David Van Landing. As with Crush, the group would record and release one self-titled album for Quadra Records in 1996 before calling it a day. Jon would eventually return to Florida and reform Crimson Glory in 1999.
In late 1996, Drenning and Lords wanted to reform Crimson Glory. They contacted Midnight but he was not interested nor he was not in the right physical condition to record an album up to the band’s standards. So they contacted singer Wade Black (from the band Lucian Blaque) and Savatage drummer Steve Wacholz. (Although he is pictured in the album and credited as the drummer, he did not record or tour with the band). Ben Jackson joined later, after his band Parish broke up. This incarnation of the group would release Astronomica in 1999 after a big delay because the master tapes were stolen and they had to record the album again. Astronomica sold more than 30,000 copies in Europe in their first few weeks of the release. Following the release there was a few warm-up shows in Florida and toured the Netherlands, Germany, France with Vanden Plas, Belgium and Greece with Kamelot and Evergrey. Troubles began during the tour and after returning to the US the band once again went their separate ways.
Reunion and second hiatus (2005–2009)
In March 2005, the band announced a reunion with the original line-up. The songwriting process of their fifth album entitled Metatron, Lucifer and the Divine Chaos (later changed to Divine Chaos) begun. On April 2006, the band confirmed that Midnight would sing on the new album, re-record the vocals for Astronomica and tour with them. On May 1, the band confirmed for the Rockwave Festival in Greece. A few days later it was announced that Black Lotus Records closed its doors and all bands were released of their contracts.
After the show in Greece in July, there were plans to tour Europe. In September, Drenning, Burnell, Lords and Jesse Rojas performed as guest musicians with Ben Jackson Group at Kamelot concert.
On January 22, 2007, Midnight was arrested, charged with driving under the influence with blood-alcohol level .20 or higher. Four days later, the band parted ways with Midnight, citing it would be difficult to work with him “as his current state of mind and his present physical condition would impede plans we have in place for future appearances, releases and recordings”. Wade Black, who had recently quit Leatherwolf, joined the band again. They played two shows in Florida with Vicious Rumors and in the Bay Area Rock Fest. After that they quietly went on indefinite hiatus.
Death of Midnight, Todd LaTorre, and breakup (2009–2012)
On July 8, 2009, in hospital with family, friends and bandmates by his side, former singer Midnight died at 3:30am. Although the press initially stated total kidney and liver failure, the real cause of death was a stomach aneurysm. In memory of their fallen friend and bandmate, Midnight, the band played a tribute show, headlining 2009’s ProgPower in Atlanta, Georgia. The show featured many special guest vocalists, including Lance King from Pyramaze, Nils K. Rue from Pagan’s Mind, Chris Salinas from Zero Hour, Ronny Monroe from Metal Church, Andy Franck from Brainstorm, Sean Peck from Cage, Danilo Herbert from Mindflow, Joakim Brodén from Sabaton, Michael Eriksen from Circus Maximus, Rob Rock, Mark Boals from Royal Hunt, Clay Barton from Suspyre, Kelly Sundown from Beyond Twilight and their former vocalist, David Van Landing. A few weeks prior to the show, Jon Oliva’s Pain guitarist, Matt LaPorte, introduced Todd La Torre to the band and he was added as a guest vocalist at ProgPower X.
In May 2010, the band formally announced Todd La Torre as their new singer. La Torre made his first public appearance as a full-time member of Crimson Glory at the Pathfinder Metal Fest in Marietta, Georgia on October 30, 2010. A drummer for 24 years in various hard rock and heavy metal bands in the Tampa Bay area, he was never seeking out being the frontman of a band, “it just happened”. In May 2012, La Torre joined four members of Queensrÿche as singer for two shows under the moniker Rising West. La Torre has since joined Queensrÿche as a full-time member.
In 2011, to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of their first album, the band toured Europe, playing in Netherlands, at the Keep It True XIV and Bang Your Head!!! festivals in Germany, Switzerland, Karmøygeddon festival in Norway and Belgium.
The band were said to be working on a new album and had released a raw demo entitled “Garden Of Shadows”. However, in 2013, it was announced that vocalist Todd La Torre parted ways with Crimson Glory. He revealed that the band had been suffering a long period of inactivity, and explained: “We had wonderful momentum and we were working within an important window of time within which the new record should have been recorded and released to have the most impact given the bands resurgence. Unfortunately, the record never materialized despite my best efforts, [and] I haven’t been contacted to write with Crimson Glory for over six months.”
Recently in a post on his facebook page, Ben Jackson commented that Jon Drenning quit during the 2012 writing sessions to focus on raising his son, and that after Todd LaTorre left to join Queensrÿche, bassist Jeff Lords and drummer Dana Burnell decided not to continue with Crimson Glory.
|Lady of Winter||Single||1988|
|Song for Angels||Single||1991|
|Breaking Barriers Vol. 4||Split||1991|
|Strange and Beautiful||Full-length||1991|
|The Official Demo Series Vol. 8||Split||1999|
|War of the Worlds||EP||2000|
|In Dark Places… 1986-2000||Boxed set||2010|
|Garden of Shadows||Single||2012|
|Midnight||Vocals (1983-1991, 2005-2007)|
|(R.I.P. 2009) See also: ex-Midnight|
|Ravi Jakhotia||Drums (1989-1991)|
|See also: ex-Crush, ex-Erotic Liquid Culture, ex-The Last Goodnight|
|Steve “Doc” Wacholz||Drums (1999)|
|See also: Reverence, ex-Avatar, ex-Savatage, ex-Metropolis|
|Wade Black||Vocals (1999-2000, 2007-2010)|
|See also: Chalice of Sin, Clockwork Revolution, Disaster/Peace, Lucian Blaque, War of Thrones, ex-Leash Law, ex-Leatherwolf, ex-Seven Witches, ex-Tiwanaku, ex-Ben Jackson Group, ex-Astaroth, ex-DeuxMonkey, ex-Sector 9, ex-Slash Maraud, ex-Templar|
|Todd La Torre||Vocals (2010-2013)|
|See also: Queensrÿche, Todd La Torre, Bad Penny, ex-Infrared|