Crucifyre - Post Vulcanic Black - (8/10)
Published on June 5, 2018
A devilroll deluxe with fries, please.
One of the great things about metal is that it’s a world unto itself. Fans of the genre may swim languidly from one style to another in order to experience a whole gamut of emotions, never needing to surface into the humid and quickly decaying world of pop. It’s even possible to find varying degrees of subtlety in a type of music generally thought of as intense and ugly. Another facet of metal’s hermetic appeal is that a strong sense of history pervades the music and distinguishes many of the musicians from their counterparts in other contemporary styles. The deep knowledge, not only of others’ compositions, but also of their personal histories is a key element in separating real fans from those with only a passing interest in the tunes.
Crucifyre boil that phenomenon down to its essence with their third album Post Vulcanic Black. There are of course exceptions, but it is rare for a group to turn themselves into chroniclers of events that they are also involved in, which is what makes this album an odd one. Whatever the title might hint at, Crucifyre play a kind of downbeat-then-upbeat heavy metal with plenty of classic influences, though also a ragged edge that tells of the underground. That’s probably not the important thing though, because the album contains 10 tales of heavy metal exploits that will remind either directly or incidentally of key moments in the genre, such as the rise of black metal, the roots of Mercyful Fate, and – somewhat more bizarrely on “Mother Superior’s Eyes” – that particular obsession with nuns that has marked a lot of black, doom, and thrash metal in the last three decades.
What is equally interesting is that Crucifyre don’t merely opt to play straight through those tales with their former old school death style, though nor do they chop and change as much as suggested by the vastly different feel of the three opening tracks. This trio provides a a reasonable, though incomplete, summary of what else to expect. The title track weighs in with a chunky, menacing groove spat out of Satyricon’s later black and roll era (post-Volcano, get it?) and some other mid-paced crushing heavy riffs, which are very satisfying but leave the listener rather unprepared for the – guess what – aggressive thrash of “Thrashing with Violence”. The guitar tone is blunter than the source material of Exodus and Sodom, since there isn’t any palm-muting, though the vocals are also closer to death metal in the verses and a cleaner punky yell during the chorus. “Mother Superior’s Eyes” proves an anomaly in the grand scheme of things, riding in on a clean guitar riff that could easily be from 1980s post-punk, then taking a slightly heavier angle like Grave Digger’s slower moments, though with no change to the gruff darkness of an American country Gothic singer.
Quite clearly, any fans of the Stockholm band’s early material (which was more or less in line with the city’s trademark death metal sound) will be nonplussed by the sonic evolution, although the signs were already there on the preceding full-length, which felt like death ‘n’ roll at times. The legacy of extremity does remain in some elements of Crucifyre‘s metal stew, such as on “War Chylde”, where meaty guitars take up a prominent position in the mix with plenty of crunch available from that ingredient, while a few spices are added in the form of a variety of vocal styles and a free and creative drum performance from Yasin Hillborg. His battery is flexible and skilfully handled with a kit that packs a traditional metal thump, something that the NWOBHM-on-steroids riffing of “Hyper Moralist (Deemed Antichrist)” uses to its full advantage. Other highlights include the doom-infused “Serpentagram”, the punky tendencies of “Död Människa?” and rousing chorus of “200 Divisions”, which proves not to be the only singalong part of the album.
Considering that the line-up for this album features ex-members of the old guard of death metal like Afflicted and Crematory, the tweaks to the formula made on Post Vulcanic Black are all the more pertinent, since they perhaps display a realization that the Stockholm sound is simply inundating extreme metal, with output from both old masters and new exponents. In much the same way as countrymen Usurpress, Crucifyre are using those death metal roots to expand outwards, though songs like “Copenhagen in the Seventies” show a more lighthearted approach than the progressive twists on Usurpress’s recent Interregnum. Whatever your take on distorting traditional values of the underground, the ride that the listener is taken on here reflects a great deal of reverence for the metal scene and hard work to form something different on the part of the re-shuffled five-piece. This may well seem confusing and disordered for the first few listens, but it very quickly becomes impossible to refute the arse-kicking nature of much of the music from Post Vulcanic Black. Let the evolution continue!