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Glad to see them active again. - 100%

Kronisk, October 28th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1995, Cassette, Warhead Records

Have you ever felt a need for a tool with which to demonstrate to people what doom metal is and why you listen to it? Then Cruciform's Paradox demo is for you.

Consisting of two songs, almost seventeen minutes of music, Paradox covers two themes that pretty much summarise what doom metal has been about since 1970. The first song, Paradox, slowly relates the first-person perspective tale of a man whose son is stillborn. But simply describing the lyrics and what they are about does not do this song justice. Not by a long shot. With a perfect layering of drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, and just the right kind of vocals, every pang of emotion you can imagine a father feeling as he is forced to accept that his son was dead before said son was even born (hence the title), is pounded into the listener through every carefully-chosen note.

On the flip side, Gutter relates a first-person tale of a homeless man who has been neglected and dispossessed for some time and is about to die of neglect. When this listener was a child, he was told this kind of thing did not happen in Cruciform's native Australia. (Or Asstralia as this listener now calls it.) When this listener first heard the song as a seventeen year old, "it cannot happen here" was exposed as a lie. At age thirty-seven, this listener is given to feeling the song describes his destiny. Such is the way you judge the quality of a doom metal record. If it grows more relevant, that is a tragedy, and Gutter seems a thousand times more relevant in the country it was recorded in today.

Cruciform's playing and compositional style tends to emphasise economy. The right note in the right place for the right effect. This is especially apparent in both Michael Lenton's drumming and the keyboards that in this case Simon Gruer layered over the top. In Gutter, one does not hear any keyboards until the last two minutes of the song. But when one hears them, oh boy what a difference they make. Lenton's drumming is also quite something to behold. Rather than constantly blasting at the listener and reminding everyone he is there, Lenton's drumming is mostly slow, relaxed, and just making the right sound in the right place. That he also performs vocals has something to do with it, but it also has to do with the fact that he does not feel the need to hit every skin in his kit every few seconds. It stands out after getting used to constant blast-beating.

If there is one complaint about this tape, it is a minor one, and that is the production. Cruciform were clearly on a budget when they tracked this tape, and it shows, especially in the drumming. In one YouTube comment, Lenton responds to an expressed desire to emulate this snare sound with the suggestion to try hitting a cardboard box. He states that he is the drummer and he hates the snare sound on this tape. I can certainly understand where he is coming from with the cardboard box thing. The drums sound both muddy and shrill a lot of the time, and the guitars occasionally waver, as if the source tape was stretched by the recording equipment during the session.

Cruciform have recently reunited, and played numerous shows around Sydney. Thankfully, they have also rereleased both Atavism and Paradox on CD format. Paradox on CD, and thus the option to transfer it to a portable or a hard disk, is a must-have. It is a requirement of being taken seriously when one claims to know what doom metal is about. It really is that good.