Crosswind – Vicious Dominion
Crosswind – Vicious Dominion (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
The debut full-length from Greek power metallers Crosswind has been a long time coming – almost twenty years, in fact. This gets a little confusing, because the band is best known for (up to this point, anyway) its demo compilation release of 2007’s Beyond and 2009’s Opposing Forces, which is basically an album unto itself – and a rather good one at that. With five more years under its belt since any recorded output, anyone with substantial interest in the European power metal underground has been tracking the band closely to see how it delivers on the promise of its demos.
While largely the same in style and execution, there are a couple of noticeable changes to how Crosswind approaches its compositions on Vicious Dominion. The pacing is generally slower, without the same wild, breakneck pace of tunes like “Nephilim Rising” and “Awakening” from the demos. Additionally, the band has upped the peripherals – more symphonic sound samples and backing choirs are featured in abundance as integrated portions of songs, rather than the numerous half-minute transitions that dotted the band’s earlier work.
Vicious Dominion is also more streamlined. While Greece has long had a tendency to produce either “epic” heavy metal bands or rather mediocre, more typical Euro-power groups, Crosswind has become a very good representation of the country in the latter category. Vasilis Topalidis is a more accomplished vocalist than guitarist Kyriakos Vasdokas, and brings a smoother, more melodic approach to Crosswind’s smartly-composed choruses. While I don’t shriek with glee about any one song here as much as I do “Awakening” from Opposing Forces, “Angels At War”, “Legion Lost”, and “Eye Of The Storm” are all superb earworms. Despite the less furious tempo, Crosswind manages some great shredding and well above-average riffing for a European band (which makes sense, keeping in mind the band’s speed metal roots) as well, making this a pretty well-rounded and laudable affair on the whole.
Now, maybe it’s just me, but despite saying all of these great things, I can’t shake the feeling that I actually prefer the 2010 compilation album in a small way. Though it’s more chaotic, not as well produced, and doesn’t (debatably) have as proficient a singer, that selection of songs just feels more organic and memorable to me. It may just be nostalgia talking, but I’d like to think that I’ve reviewed enough second helpings to realize when that’s the case, and when the music honestly doesn’t appeal to me as much. I will call Vicious Dominion a great album, but I can’t say so without simultaneously adding the caveat that I feel it’s a safer, slightly more prosaic piece of work.
My own feelings on this compared to the band’s prior efforts notwithstanding, I still issue a high recommendation for Vicious Dominion to all who enjoy uptempo, catchy European power metal that maintains a sense of heaviness and punch. The drumwork and riffing is really top-tier, and I think will appeal to fans of US power metal, classic German speed, and maybe even thrashier material in a way that most Euro-power acts just can’t match. The only realm in which I feel Crosswind needs to expand is memorability and unique replayability, as they’ve moved at least slightly closer to more generic power metal with this release. However, a ton of work went into this album, Topalidis is a roaring typhoon, and it pretty much kicks nine kinds of ass, so you can also just discard all my reservations and start screaming your lungs out.
3.75 // 5