Friday 12 April 2024

Crossdown - Wind Blows Over the Forsaken Land (2024)

Country: Vietnam
Style: Black Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 12 Apr 2024
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives

I've only reviewed one album from Vietnam at Apocalypse Later and that was back in 2020, so it's about time I covered another one. Oddly, both turn out to be black metal debuts, but otherwise I wouldn't call out a lot of commonality between the two. Elcrost's Benighted & Unrequited covers a lot of musical ground, always playing with contrasts: harsh and clean, intense and ambient, fast and slow. Crossdown don't have any real interest in clean, ambient or slow, though, of course, the songs do vary in tempo, merely from reasonably fast to frantic, with some mosh parts in there for good measure. What they want to do most is blister and they do that for most of nine songs.

According to Metal Archives, there are two musicians in Crossdown, though they also suggest that this album came out on 13th January, 2023. Everything else I'm seeing suggests 12th April, 2024, so I'm reviewing it now, but I guess I need to trust them on who's in the band. Phat Tien Nguyen takes care of the drums and Trung Loki contributes everything else: vocals, guitar and bass. Loki has to be one of the busiest men in Vietnam, partly because he's also in half a dozen other active bands that play various combos of black, death and thrash metal—Brutore, Butchery, Calochivu, Obsess, Rot and Sleeping Hollow—and because he's been half a dozen others in the past, but because he also runs Bloody Chunks Records, who released this album.

He's primarily in black metal mode this time out, as his guitar has a typically vicious black metal edge to it and his vocals form a typical black metal shriek. He barks out these lyrics without a lot of variety, but they do add that higher pitched tone that's needed on this sort of album. His bass rumbles along underneath deepening everything else but without seeking any sort of turn in the spotlight. In fact, there's very little here that wants the spotlight. Every song is more than happy to be there, to blister through its business and then to let the next have its turn.

The overall feel is shifted to the album as a whole, with each song contributing something similar to bolster it. That's why I won't call out any particular tracks for special mention. Go to YouTube or wherever else you look to sample albums. Pick a track. If you like that one, the you're going to like all nine of them. On the other hand, if you don't like it, then this isn't going to be for you and you don't need to listen any further. Maybe I could cite Bizarre Ritual or Immaculate Liar for having a tiny edge over the others, but I'd probably do the same thing with different ones tomorrow.

If there are surprises, they're in Nguyen's drumming and just how many mosh parts add up as the album rolls along. Nguyen's drumming is furious in fast sections and calculated in slower ones. He seems to deliver both styles effortlessly, but he never seems to reach the sort of speeds that the most intense black metal bands thrive on. Maybe it's partly because the mix isn't the cleanest at the lower end, a not uncommon state of affairs for black metal, so the bass drum blurs together with the bass. If there's a double bass pedal here, it's buried deep enough that I had to stretch to imagine it. It may well be just Nguyen having fast feet.

Partly, though it's because Nguyen just doesn't aim for that sort of hyperspeed. And that's where those mosh parts come in. They're right out of thrash when bands slow down and want their pits to churn and, the more I listen to this album, the more I feel like there's a heck of a lot more thrash here than I initially thought. When Crossdown are slow, they fit right in with thrash metal. When they speed up, they feel black but mostly because of the vocals and that guitar tone. They're not a long way from thrash otherwise.

The result is, perhaps inevitably, something that feels black metal from the outset but also highly accessible to thrash fans. Right from the beginning, when Paganist's Revenge blisters out of the gate, it's clearly black metal but there's a short mosh part within its first minute and more on the way later in the song. That repeats across the other eight tracks and I suddenly realised that I was reacting to it in the way I'd react to a thrash album. This is black metal that aims to clean you out rather than paint any sort of picture or push a bleak mood.

That's why I'm going to go with a 7/10 here, even though that matches the Elcrost album and that seems odd. This doesn't sport any of the elegance or subtleties of Elcrost that I was so impressed with back in 2020, but it doesn't try to. It's no nonsense heads down thrash all wrapped up in black metal trimmings and that's all it cares about. It's simply a different thing, even if the genre is the same on the label, and it wants to do something different. I'll happily throw on Elcrost if I want to listen to something impeccably crafted. And I'll happily throw on Crossdown if I just want to shed a lot of latent aggression. Both of those approaches are valid and both bands do the business.

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