Crimson Glory was founded in Sarasota, Florida in 1982 under the moniker 'Beowulf' with guitarists Jon Drenning and Ben Jackson, bassist Jeff Lords and drummer Dana Burnell. While searching for a singer, the group discovered one in the form of an old school mate of Jeff's: the mystically-named Midnight (John Patrick McDonald). They rehearsed diligently, finding and developing their sound for almost four years before recording their self-titled debut album on Par Records in 1986. This would later be re-issued after signing on with their new label, Roadrunner Records. Tight, melodious , dual-lead harmonies and soaring vocals would feature prominently on this release, as well as the now legendary follow-up album, "Transcendence", widely considered one of the best prog-power metal albums of all-time by critics and fans around the world.
In an era of sound and look-a-like metal bands, Crimson Glory's goal was to be uniquely identifiable from their sound as well as their visual image other bands. Hence, presented with an idea by lead guitarist, Jon Drenning, they decided to wear custom designed, full-face metallic silver masks on-stage, as well as for all photo shoots and public appearances.
Note: Lead vocalist, Midnight, was the exception to this, as his mask left his mouth uncovered for live singing.
Their sophomore release, “Transcendence” was a landmark in the genre and it garnered them much-deserved praise and attention, both at home in the States and overseas in Europe and Japan. While on tour in support of their self-titled debut album, the band discovered how hot the silver full-faced masks would be on stage. Thus, a change was made: to keep their unique mystique, they decided restyle the masks down into a partial “Phantom of the Opera” style( Jeff Lord's idea) for the 'Transcendence' tour.
Note: Despite the uniqueness and allure of the silver mask, they were retired after this tour.
While touring behind "Transcendence", Crimson Glory performed live in front of 5000 faithful, screaming fans at the Manatee Civic Center in their hometown of Bradenton, Florida on Sept. 2, 1989. This concert was simulcast across America on Z Rock Radio. 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 and form their own band, Parrish.
Burnell would be replaced by Ravi Jakhotia in 1991, who brought a decidedly more multi-timbrel, “tribal” feel to the band and the material they would write for their next album was more 'Zepplin-esque' oriented and based more upon drum grooves as opposed to guitar riffs, on which their first two albums were largely based. 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", which was initial meant to be a double CD release, i.e. "Strange" and "Beautiful". However, prior to the start of the tour, vocalist Midnight fell ill and dropped into a self-imposed exile for almost a decade before anyone heard from him again...
Lead Guitarist, Jon Drenning, recruited his friend and lead vocalist, David Van Landing )formerly of the band "Mannekin") as a replacement for Midnight for a short "Stange & Beautiful tour in the USA. Drenning and Lords would then regroup in two side projects - first as 'Erotic Liquid Culture’ with David Van Landing on lead vocals; then ‘Crush' with Billy Martinez on lead vocals. They recorded one album (independently) under each name, respectively; both are out of print and much sought-after by fans. The music and style on both albums were quite different from Crimson Glory's previous three CDs.
In 1999, after an almost five year hiatus, Drenning and Lords reformed Crimson Glory with lead vocalist, Wade Black, formerly of the band, Lucian Blaque (1991-1995). They also welcomed rhythm guitarist, Ben Jackson, back into the band, as well as adding a new drummer, Jesse "the Hammer" Rojas. This incarnation of the group would release “Astronomica” (2000) and following a brief European tour, would go on hiatus again. In the meantime, Ben Jackson and Midnight launched solo careers and Wade Black would go on to front three different metal bands, Seven Witches (2000), Leash Law (2004), and Leatherwolf (2006).
Answering the demand of the fan base, affectionately referred to by the band as the ‘Crimson Militia’, Drenning reunited all the original members: vocalist Midnight, guitarist Ben Jackson, bassist Jeff Lords and after much secrecy and to the delight of the fans, drummer Dana Burnell. A surprising addition had been the inclusion of former Astronomica tour drummer Jesse Rojas, who backed up the group in live performances on percussion, as well as contributing on backing and lead vocals. The band signed a contract with Black Lotus Records with plans to release a DVD of a vintage 1989 concert from Bradenton, Florida, as well as a re-release of the two first albums.
Note: Black Lotus Records has since gone under and the material was never released.
Sadly, the reunion was not to last. In late January 2007, citing personal health issues, Crimson Glory once more parted ways with mystical, iconic lead singer Midnight. After Midnight's dismissal, former vocalist Wade Black was brought back into the fold, but the band has since only played three shows, including the highly touted BARfest in San Francisco, CA. Following Black Lotus' bankruptcy, the band went on indefinite hiatus, with Jon Drenning's decision to return to college to pursue a career in medicine having some bearing on this.
On July 8th, 2009, founding member and original Crimson Glory frontman, Midnight, passed away from long-term health complications with his friends, band mates, and family by his side. He was 47 years old. Despite the various issues and conflicts between Midnight and the rest of the band, it was a devastating loss in its truest form for the remaining members. The shock of Midnight's early passing brought Drenning, Jackson, Lords and Burnell together again; following an offer to headline the tenth-annual ProgPower USA festival in Atlanta, GA the band agreed that it would be a fitting tribute to their fallen singer to perform. Nearly 20 vocalists from a wide array of progressive and power metal bands were carefully selected to perform material from Crimson Glory's first two albums, along with Wade Black returning to perform a handful of songs from Astronomica. The show was a huge success and received high praise all around, from both fans and press alike.
It was during the rehearsals and subsequent performance that the band would find their new vocalist, Todd La Torre. Brought in on a whim to help out in rehearsal, it became evident very early on that La Torre was a significantly talented, if completely unknown, singer. Following the ProgPower USA show, the band yet again took a break, with Ben Jackson and Jeff Lords focusing much of their musical effort on their own projects, respectively.
In the meantime, Jon Drenning remained in constant contact with La Torre, spending time together and meeting every once in a while for impromptu, non-band-related jam sessions. There was no question in Drenning's mind that La Torre had the sound that the band desired and needed to take them into the next incarnation of Crimson Glory, and following Todd's recorded performances of the band's original material, there was no doubt that La Torre was the perfect man for the job.
Finally in April of 2010 a decision by the band was made to formally include Todd La Torre as the new frontman of Crimson Glory, and a press release was issued at the beginning of May, which included some of the audio tracks of Todd performing Midnight's vocal parts on many of CG's classic songs. The response from the Crimson Militia was nothing short of overwhelming; the fans have their band back with a vocalist who is eerily similar to Midnight, but with his own individual sound.
The elegant legendary beast that is Crimson Glory once again raises high its noble head...