Kingscrossing - s/t 4/5
7. Angels in the night
9. Bed of nails
10. Rapid fire
11. Stuck in a hole
It warms the cockles of my heart to see that the 80s traditional U.S. heavy metal sound is alive and well today. I'm not talking power metal, progressive metal, speed metal, symphonic Hollywood blackened theatrical operatic horror viking metal, or any of those other fractured sub-genres, just plain old-fashioned, true-as-steel American metal in the vein of Axehammer, Malice, Lizzy Borden, Breaker, Vicious Rumors, Obsession, Leatherwolf, 'Dungeons'-era Savatage, 'Warning'-era Queensryche, Armored Saint and the like. To my ears, the pride of Texas, Aska, are the leading purveyors of this style, but Nevada's Kingscrossing have enthusiastically thrown their hat in the ring with their 's/t', independently released debut CD.
From the outset, it is immediately clear that Kingscrossing ooze professionalism and class. The musicianship is proficient, to say the least, especially the searing 6-string work of Zack Grimm and Richie Pagan (love the stage names, guys). The production is sharp, clear and superior to that heard on many of today's bigger-budget recordings. And vocalist Michael Adams is a massive talent. He claims to be influenced by Geoff Tate and Ronnie James Dio, and I hear both of those. But I'd also toss in some Bobby Lucas (Overlorde), Mark Vanderbilt (early Kamelot), Jim Hamar (Breaker), and, for something a bit more obscure, Dale Anthony (Zaxas). His technical skills are superb, and he manages to be powerful, controlled and expressive all at the same time.
Of course, for a band like Kingscrossing to succeed, the songs must be excellent. Let's face it: This style of music has been around for more than a quarter century. If, like Kingscrossing, you are choosing to perform that sound in undiluted, pure form, without innovation or experimentation, then it is imperative that the songs be strong. (Don't get me wrong: I'm not criticizing the band for playing true, unabashed American metal. Far from it, I applaud the choice. But that narrow path isn't necessarily the easiest road to recognition given the conventions and inherent limitations in the style, so great songwriting is a must.) On this metric, 'Kingscrossing' is a winner. Sticking to the midtempo for the most part, Kingscrossing present a host of compelling riffs and cool vocal melodies, with memorable songs. The adrenaline-powered "Rapid fire" (no, not a Judas Priest cover) is an obvious highlight, as are the band's eponymous track (opening line: "Stand up and fight for the king and the queen") and the speedier bursts of "Powersource" and "L.I.F.E.". All 11 songs are effective, and there are no ballads, instrumentals, intros, outros or other pointless time-wasters on this lean 45-minute attack. The mantra "all killer, no filler" comes to mind.
What's frustrating is that a band of Kingscrossing's caliber continues to toil in obscurity. They're unsigned and have little word-of-mouth buzz, to my knowledge. However, late last year Kingscrossing crossed the pond for a short tour and an appearance at the famous Swordbrothers Festival in Andernach, Germany a few days before Christmas. Here's hoping that 2008 is kind to Kingscrossing, a band with the chops, talent and songs to turn, no, bang, many heads in the underground metal community.
Finally, a caveat: Confusingly, there are 2 versions of this debut CD floating around. The earlier edition (recorded in 2005) features a different singer, somewhat different tracklisting and weaker production. If you decide to check out Kingscrossing, make certain you pick up the 2006 pressing, which features re-recorded material, new material, better production, and Adams' stellar pipes.
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