|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Steel Legacy||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 8||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 50:49|
First there was Neon Cross. And then along came Barren Cross- soon followed by Whitecross. One band from the same era that deserves every bit as much notoriety – though not quite making the same impact musically – is a talented five piece until out of Albuquerque, New Mexico by the name of Cross. No, nothing fancy or special. Just plain and simple Cross. And they deliver. Big time. Arriving in the mid-eighties amidst the literal avalanche of “white metal” bands that hit the scene following the commercial success of Stryper, Cross debuted in 1986 with Metal From Above, a five track demo which helped lead it to eventually signing with King Klassic Records. When money from the label failed to materialize, however, Cross soon broke up and was subsequently never heard from again. Until now. Give a great deal of credit to Steel Legacy Records for re-mastering Metal From Above – originally a cassette only release - and re-issuing it on CD (1000 copies) and vinyl (333 copies) along with three bonus tracks recorded live in 1988.
What we have in Cross is non-commercial metal certain to gain the interest of those into Iron Maiden, Barren Cross, Fates Warning, Jacobs Dream, Sacred Warrior and a host of others within the same genre. Delivering a sound that is both technical and complex, the band is at its best on the albums two “epic pieces”: the eight minute “Metal from Above” is an intricate number full of time changes galore, while “Final Journey”, a ten minute plodder broken down into three parts, gives rise to an almost portent feel. Cross can even put together a quality up-tempo composition in “Deliverance” or slow the pace down to the doom-like aesthetics found on “The Ascension”.
One of the aspects to Cross’ performance that most impresses me is the confidence it displays in its instrumental sound. To understand my point, one must consider that ten of the albums first twelve minutes are instrumental. (Things get underway with the instrumental “Sign Of The Cross”.) It is on “SOTC”, “Metal From Above” and “The Ascension” that the guitar team of Henry Chavez and Tommy Salas are allowed to shine, cutting loose with raw sounding and aggressive lead work that hearkens back to the guitar heroes of the eighties. Vocalist James Sanchez delivers the goods as well with his clean sounding and mid-octave ranged vocal style. While he might not posses the range of the Mike Lee’s (Barren Cross) or Ray Parra’s (Sacred Warrior) of the world, he puts forth a showing that perfectly complement to the bands driving brand of metal. My overall feeling is that if given the proper time in the studio Sanchez would have turned into a first rate vocalist.
And this leads me to the area of the albums production values. First, it is important to keep in mind that Metal From Above is a self-financed project recorded using mid-eighties technology. Hence, a certain amount of thinness and muddiness must be expected. On the other hand, what we have here is a work that – literally not being commercially available in decades – must be enjoyed for the strength of the music alone. Which is quite high. If the bands deal with King Klassic had not fallen through and they went on to record a full length album with 4 or 5 additional songs of the same caliber here – and backed it with professional production – then I would easily hand out a grade in the 85% or 90% range.
Things get underway with “Sign Of The Cross”, a ripping instrumental bringing some ominous guitar riffs reminiscent to that of Sacred Warrior and Jacobs Dream. The song moves through its first half in near haunting fashion to a driving rhythm guitar, tapering off slightly over its final several minutes as the guitar team of Chavez and Salas add to the inauspicious scene with their fiery soloing abilities.
The albums title track begins to a hard hitting instrumental section shored up by some guitar riffs that almost reflect a thrash influence. Evening put upon reaching its first verse, “Metal From Above” progresses at a prevailing mid-tempo pace until peaking for a sweeping chorus backed by occasional shouted vocal harmonies. The last four and a half minutes to the song are also instrumental as Cross dives into a literal labyrinth of time changes as Chavez and Salas again cut loose on guitar. “Metal From Above” is aptly named:
Words of a thousand ages
Accepted or ignored
Spoken through the Almighty
Heard only by those searching for
The foretold is a new beginning
After all, this is the End
No, your eyes don’t deceive you
Yes, Angels in armor come in threat
Descending down from the heavens
The Metal that can only be from Above
Shining bright on full cry
Blinded by a breathtaking light
“Deliverance” is an up-tempo hard rocker that would make Barren Cross or Saint proud. The song commences to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar followed by a stretch of tight sounding guitar harmony, pushing itself ahead until transitioning to a brief but hook driven chorus in which the band makes a statement of faith:
Fear not! We shall rise from Deliverance
A rollicking instrumental section is sustained by more lead work of a keyed up variety. (Think Time’s End era Saint with John Mahan).
The instrumental based introduction to “The Ascension” is reinforced by a pounding guitar riff that comes across doom-like in capacity. Grinding through its first and second verse to a mid-tempo swell of rhythm guitar, an authoritative statement is made as the song acquires a catchy chorus in which harsh vocal harmonies play a prominent role. Cross again puts its instrumental prowess on display, adorning the final three minutes here with a blend of stirring lead guitar and acidic riffing. The need for salvation is the message to “The Ascension”:
Now you can see
How the Truth shall set you all free
You can rise being prepared
To meet the Lord in the air
Give your life to Jesus Christ
And you shall be saved
From this day in which
The dead shall dig their own graves
“Final Journey” is a ten minute, three part epic that traces the spiritual journey of an individual who in the end finds Christ.
“The Stand”, part one, is a slowly moving piece that brings to mind the Jacobs Dream track “House Of Cain” (off the bands self-titled debut) with its haunted feel. A quietly played guitar highlighted by keyboards leads the way through the songs first and second verse, a touch of rhythm guitar entering the mix in time to imbue its third and final verse as the person of Christ is portrayed:
Eyes that shine like blazing suns, hair white as snow
A voice that shouts like raging thunder, His feel like burning coals
Denying My Word, defying My Faith, was your early life
A victim of reality brought forth only to die
Part two, “The Calling”, abruptly picks up the pace as a rollicking guitar riff takes over, driving the song aggressively through its first and only verse as the individual hits rock bottom in life:
There’s no use in hoping, it’s too late to kneel and pray
My morals all have failed me on this dark and lonely day
No one left to cry to, am I left all alone?
All that’s left to hold to is the dark and dreary cold
Again tapering off in a portent manner, “Final Journey” culminates for its third and final part, “The Fall”. The song gradually flows ahead with a militant drum beat decorating the background, momentum not building until the rhythm guitar returns to stand in support of its final verse as the individual comes to a realization of truth:
I died to live in pain, now I see
I lived to die in vain, but why me?
Heed my words, no more lies shall I breathe
The Truth’s alive don’t regret, just believe!
For He who died on the Cross is our sign
He shall lead all who believe to the peace and joy of everlasting life
Metal From Above hits a bit of a bumpy road for its three live tracks: “Exodus 20” is an instrumental and “Black Death” and “Prisoners Of War” driving hard rockers. Bordering on the repetitious, I find it difficult to get into the three due to the harsh feel to the “live” production. It would have been interesting to hear how these might come across if recorded in the studio with proper production (they are not bad musically).
My overall feeling is it is tragic Cross did not get the label support it needed and broke up before putting together a professionally recorded full length project. I cannot help but think that, given the same type of musical maturity and development exhibited by Barren Cross, Bride, Saint and others, in time Cross might have ranked with the upper echelon of Christian metal bands. White Throne (a Christian metal magazine from the late eighties and early nineties) editor Dave Johnson sums things up best in his review of Metal From Above:
If you are tired of pop metal and want something real heavy with thought provoking lyrics, almost thinking-man’s heavy metal, check this tape out.1
I could not have said it better myself!
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Sign Of The Cross” (4:44), “Metal From Above” (8:00), “Deliverance” (4:34), “The Ascension” (6:15), “Final Journey” (10:34), “Prisoners Of War” (6:30), “Exodus 20” (5:12) and “Black Death” (5:00).
James Sanchez – Lead Vocals
Henry Chavez – Guitars
Tommy Salas – Guitars
Mike Cano – Bass
Steve Cano - Drums
1. Dave Johnson, “Metal From Above review,” White Throne 3 (1987): 24.