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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.