I’m beginning to think that beards have a direct impact into the quality of music. I have reviewed a good few beard clad bands lately and each release has been fantastic; with Battlecross releasing their latest album War of Will, can they live up this run of success?
Yes. Fuck the whole idea of writing an entire review and hiding the short answer until the end. This album is pretty damn good, go and buy it. You can stop reading now, but if you keep reading I’ll explain exactly why it’s good.
My first introduction to Battlecross was via the following thumbnail.
I saw a mighty beard along with a name with “Battle” in it, I therefore decided they sang about Vikings and I liked then. Clicking the link I was immediately proved wrong and to be totally honest, didn’t really enjoy it. If you’ve ever picked up a drink thinking it was something else, tasted it then fought the urge to spit it out despite it being another drink you actually enjoy you might know the feeling. There was nothing bad about it, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. Going into this album armed with this new knowledge, I was able to fully appreciate what was coming.
The music spans the heavy end of the metal subgenres. While tracks like Force Fed Lies open with an 80s style thrash riff and has harmony guitars that cast your mind back to the NWOBHM days, songs like Beast are straight ahead death metal (an additional note on that song, there’s a specific guitar line near the end that reminds me of the Batman cartoons, just thought I’d throw that in there). There are progressive elements mixed with melodic death metal, groove slipped in with speed metal. There’s a bit of everything. Overall the album has an incredibly melodic overtone at the same time as being brutal as fuck.
Stand out tracks on this release are Force Fed Lies, My Vaccine, Get Over It (the guitar riff at the end in particular), Beast and Never-Ending Night.
If I had to chose one word to describe the music it would be “tight.” Everything is very precise; there’s no musical mush as the instruments and notes blend together. Instead each note is cleanly and precisely picked which is important when playing this type of music, it gives each riff so much more definition and distinction. The only issues I have revolve round the lack of bass sometimes, at parts it’s very had to pick out where the bass is but this could be a mix issue/even speaker issue.
Kyle “Gumby” Gunther’s vocals are a strong point of this release. For a screamer/growler, he has a terrific range with some low guttural growls sliding into high wailed screams and vice versa.
The twin guitar attack also shines through on War of Will with the transitions between lovely melodic licks and brutal riffs executed with precision.
The rhythm section deserves strong recognition here as well. The tightness mentioned earlier could not nearly have been achieved so well if not for a precise and solid bass and drum combo.
Battlecross are their own band, they aren’t trying to emulate the kings of the genre. Even the genre is hard to pin down, it’s thrashy as fuck but there’s a melodic death aspect to the music at the same time. Combined with the old school harmony runs it’s difficult to pin them down. It’s quite rare for a band to achieve their own niche in metal these days, but Battlecross have succeeded where many have failed.
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