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Fond memories of the days when Sodom, Destruction and Kreator were challenging the American scene for prominence in the 80s have become a large part of the present thrash metal revival, to the point where bands are strictly emulating that particular era with little accounting for distinction. While this is far from a bad thing, one can't help but notice that most bands seem obsessed with the fast, driving, and largely one-dimensional fury that typified "Persecution Mania" and "Pleasure To Kill", sometimes with a similarly rough production quality, and at others incorporating a slightly cleaner, modern sound. Granted, many of these bands hail from places other than Germany, particularly Brazil and Greece, while a lot of newer German bands have latched on to something closer to either the classic or newer Bay Area sound.
Hellish Crossfire is a band that takes a different path, and not only goes for a sound as close to the original 80s Teutonic sound, but actually makes a concerted effort to touch every base included in that overall paradigm. The songs don't simply cook for slightly more than 3 minutes, maybe incorporate a single 20 second breakdown, and then cut out like a typical Suicidal Angels or Drunkard album. There is a good amount of sinister melodic elements and riff development, not to mention a much healthier variety of tempo exploration. Take for instance the gargantuan thrash fest that kicks things off in "Night Of The Possessed", which gradually builds from a droning, 1st wave blackened character before finally launching into a full out aerial assault in the mode of classic Sodom style, and makes plenty of time for a slightly less chaotic bridge after the early Destruction model.
While the formula here is definitely varied by retro-thrash standards, it is also heavily steeped in the usual orthodoxy that comes with the label. The vocal tracking is steeped in reverb to the point of sounding like a madman howling from a distant mountain as his ravings echo through the valley below. The character of the vocals is perhaps the one deviation from the Teutonic Trio to be found on here, and listen a little bit closer to what was heard out of Jeff Becerra on "Seven Churches", aka a guttural shout that is a bit too deep for Angelripper, but not quite as deep and murky as David Vincent. In similar fashion, the riffing character is definitely indicative of an early sound, with such numbers as "Black Injection" and "Orgasmic Rush" having a fair share of Diamond Head tendencies during the slower breakdowns, while the faster work tends towards a heavily tremolo steeped character along the lines of mid 80s Kreator and Slayer. The lead guitar work plays up a fair amount of melodic elements that are somewhat restrained compared to the usual Kerry King worship heard in this style (though there is plenty of that as well), and seems equally enthralled with the slightly less wild and more structured soloing character of the mainline Bay Area outfits.
The problem with choosing an album from the wide array of new retro-thrash bands out there is that the selection is really crowded, and very few of them are actually sub-par. But Hellish Crossfire's sophomore effort definitely comes in at the top end of the pack for 2010, and still stands tall in comparison to a number of albums that have been released since. Anyone who took a liking to Bywar when they were putting stuff out in the earlier 2000s will find a lot of the same winning elements here, along with a slightly more blackened atmosphere that definitely will play to fans of early Sodom. The reaper definitely pulled in an impressive harvest on this one so eat, thrash, and be crazy.