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Anyone familiar with the British unsigned metal scene would probably know the name Headless Cross. Played the club scene alongside other thrashers such as Pitiful Reign and the now well known Evile, billed to play Scotland’s first ever metal festival in the shape of Ragnarok UK before being thrown off the bill (the festival was later cancelled due to really bad organisation and the fact that the organisers wanted Perth as the venue instead of Glasgow, clearly a massive mistake and a huge bummer for the people like me who’d booked none-refundable hotel rooms...), played Bloodstock and then broke up having been plagued with huge line up changes since the beginning, and then evolved into Savage Messiah. This was the band’s first EP (after the Crown of Thorns demo) and probably their most well known (and best) release.
What Headless Cross play is traditional 80s style thrash metal. No pretences, no claims to be the most original band since Priest, just straight up THRASH. The best song on here would be its opener, “Elysium”, which was also the first Cross song I ever heard, and possibly the song that got me interested in thrash in the first place (most people start with the bigger bands and then move into the unsigned stuff, no idea how I managed to do it backwards), and I must say it’s a winner. Starts out with a crunching riff, before suddenly thrashing at you at about two hundred and twenty twelve miles per hour, before settling down to a more mid-paced tempo, but not losing any of its aggressive energy. The main riff of this song is total class and sounds like it came straight out of 1987. Same can be said for the solos, which aren’t what you’d call “lightning fast” but work perfectly with the rest of the music. Vocalist Dave Silver sounds a bit like Dave Mustaine, but with a harsher edge and not quite as high pitched, and if you poke yourself in the eyes he actually looks a bit like Mustaine as well. From my understanding he certainly acted a fair bit like him, what with all the line up changes both bands faced and all.
The rest of the EP, while still pretty damn awesome, doesn’t quite measure up to the opener. “Circle of Madness” is again a mid-paced thrasher, with nice riffs and solos, but not quite on par with the first song. Although the chorus is an anthemic “shout out” affair, which is always cool. “Testament of the Deceiver” is probably the weakest song here. It’s not bad, but somehow it just isn’t memorable like the rest of the EP; it’s the one song here that I can never quite remember how it goes. Like the rest of the songs, it still has a pretty nice riff, but after that it goes a bit downhill.
“Blind Sorrow” is a ballad that instantly brings “Fade to Black” to mind. The melody is pretty similar throughout. Kyle Daniel’s drums are really nicely done here, completely filling in all the gaps perfectly. The atmosphere provided here is really nice, and of course, the song progresses to get heavier before climaxing with a really nicely crafted solo.
We finish Burning Sanctuary off with the title track, which is also the fastest song on the EP. This one is right up there with “Elysium” in terms of ownage. The song has a very epic feel to it, and is filled with sudden tempo changes; one moment we have a cool acoustic thing going on, and then suddenly we’re up to 11 tearing it all up. This will have you shouting “Burning Sanctuary!” at the top of your voice in no time. This is what heavy metal is all about, this is what thrash is all about. So we can disregard my previous claim of “Elysium” being the best track on the EP, because this one shares the top spot with it without a shadow of a doubt.
So, all in all, a totally awesome little thrash EP. If you’re ever able to find this, then buy it without a second’s hesitation. Thrash fans won’t be disappointed.
I’m not into thrash that much, but having witnessed Headless Cross at Bloodstock Open Air 2006, I felt that it was worth my while to pick up their EP Burning Sanctuary from the merchandise stand. Their live show was tight and full of energy and raw power, something that I hoped would also be apparent on this disc. Although it didn’t quite pack the punch of the live show, the album showed that the band are one to watch out for in the thrash scene.
Headless Cross are not the fastest or most technical band that you’ll ever hear, but that doesn’t stop them writing good thrash songs. From the second the jagged opening riff of “Elysium” opens the disc and the double bass flourishes join in, you know you’re on to something promising. Dave Silver’s vocals remind me a bit of Dave Mustaine, except with a slightly harsher tone, which fit the music perfectly. The song flows along nicely with a memorable chorus and a pretty cool solo to boot. “Circle of Madness” slows the pace down ever so slightly but still has solid riffs and an anthem like chorus, which would definitely be a crowd pleaser live. “Testament of the Deceiver” is more of the same though it pales in comparison to the other tracks.
Tracks four and five are where the band truly shows of their talent. “Blinding Sorrow” is a mostly acoustic affair that can immediately draw comparisons with Metallica’s “Fade to Black”, with a very similar vocal melody and introduction. The guitar work is quite exceptional as the band flawlessly shifts from soft acoustic passages to a heavy(ish) middle section, with a solo that whilst not complex is incredible in it’s beauty and simplicity.
The title track finishes the disc with another thrash fest. Its opening is similar to Metallica’s “Creeping Death”, leading to a brief tranquil passage before again launching into a barrage of double kicks and heavy riffs that will get you headbanging, with another simple yet memorable chorus. What stands this apart from the other thrashers on this disc is the ending to the song, where awesome dual guitar harmonies are mixed with Kreator like riffs over a thunderous double bass beat for over two minutes until ending in a flourish.
Any fan of thrash would find this to be a very satisfying listen. The production is clear enough and the songs never get dull or overstay their welcome. A mention must be made about the solos, which are never mindless shred fests despite being quite fast and technical, which is a major plus point for the band. Although they are hardly the most original band in existence, they are still a very promising band for the future of thrash metal.