It had been quite some time since an album had blown me off as much as "Forbidden Tunes" by Belarussian VICIOUS CRUSADE. With its gripping mix of Folk, Death Metal and some other not really usual, but still very fitting elements the Belarussians had created an album that sounds fresh and unique, but doesn't bury the listener with progressiveness and complexity. OK, for many listeners the music might still sound too unusual to really be able to get into it (which would be a shame in itself already), but to mobilize the open listener, that is a feat that VICIOUS CRUSADE without a doubt master.
So the joy was big, when I could put the previous album "The Unbroken" into my player, highly interested in hearing how the quintet from Minsk had sounded in 2000. Optically the CD cannot compete with "Forbidden Tunes", very simple, an a bit weird band photo and the tracklist on the inside of the inlay? Well… Let's look at the music as this is what it is all about, isn't it?
And that one hits home just as the following album, just on a different level. The music on "The Unbroken" is not as elaborate as on "Forbidden Tunes", but not less fascinating. Opener "Masquerade Of Piety" is almost bubbling over with energy, with driving double-bass, crunchy guitars, straight and with great melodies… Plus rough vocals (but no Death metal growl), which turn Death Metal in the chorus, together with operatic female vocals, great start for this CD!
The title track is very close to traditional Metal, plus the double vocals, while "Dogs Of Justice" starts out with rhythmic drumming, just to continue with powerful, heavy riffing and harsh vocals, just to surprise with a very catchy chorus. "Land Of Lakes" then indeed is the track, which had brought the name of VICIOUS CRUSADE to my attention all those years back. With great folky leads and rhythmic drums at the beginning, then harsh as well as female vocals and time and again these leads, a dream!
"Vicious Circle" then is a rather slow song, with menacing rough vocals, female voice and ethnic chants, also strong. "Theodore's Song" then turns everything truly Folk Metal, a brilliant song! It starts out with strong use of bagpipes, which then are accompanied by the whole instrumentarium, which sounds just plainly great! Then the melody (without bagpipe) continues, with rough vocals, in the chorus then also female vox until also the bagpipes return. Genius!
But it continues still, right with the following "Who Are These Men?", strong Folk Metal with great guitars, rough vocals, female vocals as well as a mix of the two in the chorus, very strong song. Then we also get two bonus tracks, which are more than good, the stomping and intense "Verge Of Extinction" as well as the strong "Pariah", altogether rather slow-paced, this time also with clean male vocals and calmer passages, very good closing of the CD.
You can only partly combine "The Unbroken" and "Forbidden Tunes", for that the two albums are too different (even though you still can hear that it is the same band). Still "The Unbroken" has this freshness that is just, well, refreshing. Especially the Folk elements and the great melodies also let VICIOUS CRUSADE's first CD stand out from the mass of releases.
So if you feel like the described elements, even more so, if they are delivered with so much energy, then almost no way leads past VICIOUS CRUSADE!
Available at www.metal-cd.ru! (Online October 12, 2003)