Crimson Crusade's debut EP "Upon the Eve of War"! Independently released on June 3rd after their set at that night's Skeletonwitch concert, the EP was recorded this past winter at The Smoke & Oak Room Studio with producer Dave Pihlaja. "Upon the Eve of War" features Crimson Crusade's current lineup, including The Dirty Few's Devon Lucier on vocals & guitar, Robert Sartini (of Pillory & The Issues) on guitar, Riley Marshall on bass, and former Inhuman Methods drummer Robert Crossley. Copies of this EP can be bought at Crimson Crusade shows for $5, and though you should buy it to support their work, all 5 songs (coming in at around 20 minutes in length) can be streamed at the band's Reverbnation page & Devon's YouTube channel. With all of that said, let's look at the EP's tracks, with each one linked to it's official YouTube posting!
"Upon the Eve of War" opens with "Vanquish the Tyrant", which immediately opens with crushing riffing and solid bass work from Riley Marshall, slowly building to the first verse, where Devon Lucier's locally unique vocals kick in, which should instantly recall the late Chuck Schuldiner of Death (if raspier), ad they give this material an extra kick! I like the melodic guitar contrasting with his vocals in the verses, and the band are firing on all cylinders for one of my favourite original tracks of theirs! Nice guitar solo too, but it comes oddly late in the track, and it feels like it ends too soon afterwards. For an EP opener though, this is brutal, fast, and well paced, and it's a good introduction to Crimson Crusade's studio work!
"Left For Dead") is next, which opens softly with a slowly building guitar-centric intro before the full band kicks in with guns blazing! The song reminds me of a less melodic "Vanquish the Tyrant" in structure, if less melodic and slightly messier at points, but it's still very heavy and ready to get mosh pits going live! The guitar solo also comes across as too short, and while I like the track and the displayed talents, it feels too similar to "Vanquish the Tyrant" after the intro to really stand out compared to it, especially as they directly follow each other. The band's self titled song "Crimson Crusade" (also the EP's shortest) is next, with brutalizes with a very fast opening riff and full band assault, and while it has structural similarities to the first songs, it's more to-the-point and intense, and I like Devon & Robert Sartini's guitar work especially here (despite the lack of a full solo.) An improvement on "Left For Dead" despite it's sudden end, their eponymous tracks packs in their heaviest collective work nicely!
Fourth on the EP is "Pillage", which instantly sets itself apart with chant-like backing vocals lain in with their pre-verse intensity, and Devon's vocals are slower paced than on previous tracks, helping give the song more of it's own identity, but the backing vocals just got lost when thrown into the chorus. While not as blistering of a track as it's predecessors, it has a darker feel that doesn't detract from their established sound, with Robert Crossley's drumming standing out technically, but the guitar solo seems way too short, and it's almost an afterthought. It's not my favourite track on the EP, but it's the most original so far, and the darker and slower feel doesn't cost them any heaviness! "Upon the Eve of War" closes with it's longest track "Consumed", which returns to a fast metal attack with solid guitar melodies thrown in, and it does distance itself more from past tracks with very slow paced choruses contrasting with the heavier verses, and while I like the change, the vocals never change with the mood. Standout drumming and bass on this track late, but I wish there was a guitar solo and a bit more variance to their sound than we get, but it's definitely a strong closer to the EP, and a very cool song in it's own right!
So, what's the final word on "Upon the Eve of War"? Personally, I enjoy it and think it's a solid first effort from Crimson Crusade, but there's room to grow and expand their sound. Talent wise, the guys have it, with heavy and crushing riffs from Devon Lucier & Robert Sartini, skilled bass work from Riley Marshall, and fast & often technical drumming from Robert Crossley, but Devon's Death-inspired vocals arguably give them a lot of their unique local identity, and when you hear them, you instantly know what band it is, which is nice! The production is pretty good, if cluttered occasionally, but what Crimson Crusade need to work on is varying their sound. The first three songs are all very similar in structure, and when they do shift to slower & darker pacing like on the "Consumed" choruses, the mood doesn't change to go along with it. Some live favourites are also missing that the disc has room for (like "Lost Memories" & "Here We Lay"), and I'd like to see more guitar solos (and not only in the songs' last minute), but for a first recorded effort, Crimson Crusade's first EP delivers the death metal goods, and I hope they build on their promise in future recording sessions! Buy it at their next shows!
I hope you guys liked this month's CD review! Next month (hopefully earlier rather than later), we'll be reviewing Bring The Fallen's posthumous EP "Stand Before", as released at Oddzfest 2013 Metal Mash-Up last month, and coming four years after the original recording sessions! Does it live up to the hype? Find out in early September, and stay tuned for a new news post tomorrow! Thanks everyone!