Southern Cross – Rise Above
Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
Yes, power metal exists in the diversified province of Quebec even though an array of other genres are much more prominent. Among the better known power metal bands of the province, let’s cite the promising Eclipse Prophecy, the progressive and Viking-influenced power metal act Ice Vinland, as well as the famous female-fronted Forgotten Tales. When it comes to my favorite power metal band from the province, I would definitely go for the progressive power metal act Southern Cross. Since I have seen them in concert four years ago, I have followed them closely and would like to introduce you to their three studio records. Despite the name, I would neither compare them to Black Sabbath nor to Stratovarius, as they would rather develop their very own, distinct sound on the second and third albums.
The debut album, Rise Above, was released back in 2006. The record features many straight tracks with galloping beats, melodic guitar solos, and tight drumming. The keyboards add a progressive touch to the record that would become much more prominent on the two following albums. The vocals vary from emotional and melodic to some more aggressive shouts, but they are sometimes out of tune. No doubt about it, this album will rise or fall for you depending on how much you appreciate the vocals. In my opinion, they are the record’s biggest flaw, but would really improve in the years to come.
Overall, this album sounds like a mixture of American and European power metal. The band shows off its convincing potential, but doesn’t manage to use it effectively throughout the entire album. The problem I have with this album is that it’s a bit too straightforward, and that the songwriting gets repetitive. The thrash-driven opener “You Shall Be Damned”, with its progressive keyboard sounds makes me think of a mixture of Metallica and Ayreon, and is rather intriguing. I might also point out the calm ballad “This World Was Just A Dream” that, while a fresh idea, suffers from a loudly dominating out-of-key vocal performance. The progressive closer and title song “Rise Above” kicks off like an epic anthem should, but the track is rather overlong and repeats the same riffs and patterns over and over, just as in “Never Dare Say”. If the band had done more concise song writing and cut off around three minutes of each track, the two songs would sound much more consistent and be really great, but as it is they feel somewhat directionless.
If you are interested in energizing power metal with a few influences from the progressive and thrash fields, you should try this album out all the same. If you get along with the particular vocals, you might easily enjoy this record more than I did. If you’re not sure about this release, I would instead recommend the record’s successor, Down Below, that came out three years later, which I consider to be a contemporary progressive power metal masterpiece.
3.25 // 5