|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Roxx Productions||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1986/2011||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: No Quote|
Widely regarded as one of the more underrated Christian metal bands to come out of the eighties, Crossforce originated as a result of a joining between Bay Area musician’s vocalist/guitarist Tony Krider (Golgatha), guitarist Phil Castillo and bassist Jeff Scott. The group later rounded out its line up with drummer Mark Cassettari (also Golgatha) and keyboardist Mark Wrapley and went on to rank alongside Soldier, Valor, Believer and Golgatha as leading players in the Bay Area Christian metal scene.
The Crossforce resume is without question, having played local clubs Mabuhay Gardens, The Rock, The Omni and others in addition to Christian metal festivals His Festival and Metal Mardi Gras. Well known fanzines of the day such as Heaven’s Metal, White Throne and Risen Roxx also featured Crossforce as a result of the highly acclaimed 6 song demo it released in 1986, which sold all 500 copies printed. Despite these successes and garnering its share of buzz and interest within the burgeoning “white metal” scene, Crossforce, disappointingly, disbanded in the late eighties without having landed a label deal.
The Crossforce demo, as one might imagine, has been a highly sought after and hard to find collectors item for years, with copies going for as high as $100 on eBay. The good news, however, is that Roxx Production - in order to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the demo - re-mastered and re-issued it in the summer of 2011 on a limited basis (also 500 copies). In addition to the original 6 demo songs, a second demo - even rarer and scarcer – was also included made up of 7 additional songs the group recorded live in the studio exclusively for Jimmy Kempner of Frontline Records.
What we have in Crossforce is eighties metal, pure and simple. The group stands out with its understated heaviness, almost leaning towards some NWOBHM and classic metal influences in places, while proving masterful in its ability to interweave its material with standout hooks and melodies. Yes, you will find the occasional commercial element in the Crossforce sound (those that describe them as melodic metal would be far from unfair) but balanced with enough guitar driven proclivities to keep things fresh with repeated listen.
Highlights to the “1986” demo include the riff driven “Our Father” and Christian metal anthem “Rockin’ Til The Final Day”, two tracks that were also featured on the Metal Mardi Gras video from 1987. Faster numbers “Out Of The Darkness” and “Ready N Waiting” set blistering tempos but deliver hooks in abundance while standout melodies can be found on more commercial based tracks “Tomorrow Will Come” and the ballad “Smoke Filled Room”. The six in question prove that heavy but melodic would be the best way to describe the Crossforce sound.
I never heard the original cassette version but from what other reviewers have said the re-mastering cleans things up significantly. Yes, a certain amount of thinness is to be expected - although not to the point of distraction - but, otherwise, production is surprisingly sound when considering this is a recordings made using mid-eighties technology.
Again, the 7 “Frontline” demo tracks were recorded live in the studio and, as a result, bring some unpolished elements in staying true to the “live feel” of the recording- you get to hear the introduction to each song prior to it being performed. Still, the mix comes across clean while, once more, there is no overriding thinness that might turn you away.
Vocalist Tony Krider, who sadly passed away in 2002, might take a more mid-ranged approach than many of his contemporaries of the time - at least in comparison to Les Carlson (Bloodgood), David Raymond Reeves (Neon Cross) or Dale Thompson (Bride) – but certainly is not lacking in ability. I like to think of him as Michael Sweet (Stryper) singing in a lower register. Yes, he is that good.
Lead guitarist Phil Castillo is a wonderful talent who nails some monster guitar solos. “Tomorrow Will Come” reflects a bluesy side to his playing while he cuts loose in shredding fashion on “Our Father”. His even approaches things from a neo-classical standpoint on “Out Of The Darkness”. The overall feeling left is an underrated musician that would give just about any guitarist from the time a run for their money (White Throne editor Dave Johnson summed things up best when he described Castillo’s playing as “Randy Rhodes-styled”).
Track By Track
“Tomorrow Will Come” is a great song with a great hook. You will almost find a semi-ballad feel here, with the song drifting between calmer verses and a guitar driven chorus advancing at the more forthright tempo. In between you will also experience some bluesy moments and a melody bordering on commercial in capacity.
A heavier direction is taken on “Our Father”. The song stands out with the unremitting guitar riff that carries its distance, helping to add to a milieu approaching the darker and swarthier side of things. Despite the forceful impetus, “Our Father” fails to forsake in that, once again, a notable melody can be found.
“Smoke Filled Room” proves in no uncertain terms Crossforce can compose a quality ballad. Piano and keyboards lead the way but a more than adequate mix of guitar makes its presence felt as well. Yes, the melody borders on the radio friendly but there is also an emotional side to the song that brings to mind other top ballads of the time such as “Eyes Of Innocence” (Holy Soldier) and “First Love” (Stryper).
“Out Of The Darkness” is the first of two up-tempo numbers. Straight on metal all the way, the song brings a front to back romping presence while allowing for a near perfect blending of guitars and keyboards. An understated catchiness can also be found along with a stretch of neo-classical soloing.
“Ready N Waiting” rollicks as well but with the greater hook driven emphasis- chorus is over the top with its non-stop catchiness. No keyboards here but plenty of guitars and an up-tempo focus bordering on the infectious. Some underpinning bass lines from Scott help prop things up.
“Rockin’ Til The Final Day”, a Christian metal anthem if there ever was one, represents the most easily identifiable Crossforce track. The song might start slowly but brings full on momentum its remaining length, joining inspired verses with an anthem-like chorus that continuously repeats itself in catchy fashion: “Oh, rock until the final day!”
You will find 4 great songs on the “Frontline” demo:
The first, the aptly entitled “Stompin’ In The Streets”, hits hard - the riff is right up there with “Our Father” - but delivers a monster chorus hook at the same time. Interestingly, the guitars at the start of the song have a slight U2 feel to them.
“The Call”, a ripping track if there ever was one, brings some slower to faster (and back and forth) time signatures while representing a return to a neo-classical sound during its extended instrumental section. A high level of intensity can be found here.
A more commercial heading is taken on “It’s Your Life”. The song highlights some slight pop underpinnings, particularly during its melodically driven chorus. I am almost reminded of Bon Jovi - Do I dare say that? - or, more specifically, “For Your Love” from Impellitteri.
“Weeping World” proves when Crossforce is at the top of its game few write better ballads. The song, starting slowly and calmly, builds over its first couple minutes but takes the more decisive turn once the rhythm guitar steps forward. Similar to “Smoke Filled Room” a standout melody can be found that would lend itself to radio play.
The three remaining tracks are good as well: “Heaven’s Door” is a punchy and high energy piece while “Wait And See” heads in the more mid-paced and darker direction. “The One Who Loves You” proves a melodic hard rocker with some tight guitar harmonies.
The maturity of the Crossforce songwriting abilities cannot be denied. The group wrote such good songs that it’s a shame they never got signed in that the potential was there to rank with Bloodgood, Whitecross, Holy Soldier and perhaps even Stryper. Take the 6 songs from the “1986” demo and join them with the 4 or 5 best from the “Frontline” demo and you would end up with a great album. As a matter of fact, if Stryper had recorded said songs following To Hell With The Devil instead of In God We Trust they would have sold in the millions.
Track Listing: “Tomorrow Will Come” (5:05), “Our Father” (4:21), “Smoke Filled Room” (4:23), “Out Of Darkness” (4:53), “Ready N Waiting”, “Rockin’ Til The Final Day” (4:10), “Stompin’ In The Streets” (4:26), “The Call” (5:26), “Heaven’s Door” (3:13), “It’s Your Life” (4:32), “Wait And See” (4:04), “The One Who Loves You” (4:51), “Weeping World” (6:10)
Tony Krider - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar & Piano
Phil Castillo - Lead Guitar
Mark Wrapley - Keyboards
Jeff Scott - Bass
Mark Cassettari - Drums