This album is a concept album or rock opera which tells the semi-autobiographical life story of a fictional Rock Star named Jonathan Steel and his struggles with fame and the strains that this places on his relationships. There are some minor narrative similarities with Savatage’s 1991 release Streets: A Rock Opera (which tells the story of a fictional rock star too), and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, although each are different enough from each other so as not to cause too much outrage.
Musically there are a lot of recurring themes and variations on those themes, with parts switching from instrument to instrument, from overdriven to acoustic, from background to foreground etc.
On this album, Blackie really stepped up and improved greatly as a writer and performer. The vocals are much more impressive and emotional than before. There is also an incredibly enthusiastic and bombastic approach to the drums (courtesy of both Stet Howland, as well as former Quiet Riot man Frankie Banali who appears here and on their previous album The Headless Children), and a very cavernous, exaggerated production style, which gives the record a very unique sound and feel. Their previous album hinted at a new level of maturity and ambition, but this artistic and confident record is the fulfillment of that promise.
Highlights include: “Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)” “I Am One” and the eight-minute “The Idol.” That being said, the record really works best when listened to as a whole.
Overall; The Crimson Idol is a really unique and interesting sounding album, with talented performances (especially in the vocal and drumming departments). It shows the band expanding their sound and trying new things. This really is a classic album, one that lives up to its hype, and I highly recommend that you check it out.