|Review: Southern Cross - Down Below|
Year released: 2009
Genre: Progressive Power Metal
Review online: June 27, 2010
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Rated 3.3/5 (66%) (10 Votes)
Now this is something I don't get to hear every day. Power metal that sounds more like Angel Dust than the current wave of more upbeat and lighthearted acts. Southern Cross is a Canadian band and this is their second album, and while it did take a few plays to really grow on me, I have to say it was worth every second of it. Let's go down below and review Down Below.
I mean...wow. This is actually really good. Picture Angel Dust's last few albums mixed with a heaping helping of progressive time changes and eclectic outside elements, with a vocalist on the level of Tony Kakko or that guy from Serenity, with a similar emotional temperament – although there is a lot of Dirk Thurisch influence audible, too, of course. This is very dramatic and theatrical stuff, with a lot of flair and style to it. The mood is one of utter sorrow and hopeless rage – varying between each song, but never really getting any more positive. Chugging guitars and dreamlike keyboards make up a hellish backdrop for the singer to intone his clear midrange vocals, twisting his vocal lines into unusual mutations that you wouldn't expect.
This is really dense at times, without clearly defined hooks – it makes you go searching for them beneath the music's layers of elegant dementia. They are there, though, and the real prize here is just the sophistication with which this is all carried out. The atmosphere is pretty much like the cover; rotting, twisted landscapes with strange plant life and probably the smell of sulfur and burnt flesh in the air. It's all very dark. And songs like the opening bombast of "Weak and Sober," with its streamlined hook and its overture of sounds you will hear in the rest of the album, follow up on that magnificently. "Open Scars" and "Thirteen" make for a one-two punch of heavy, introspective metal music, and "As Goodwill Falls" is haunting in its piano-led repertoire of all things mournful. "Something Vile" and "Whistle for the Dead" are window-shattering prog monoliths with brooding melodies and boiling, seething riffs to spare, and the closing "Left for Dead" is the most progressive and inaccessible song here, with layers of depravity unfolding around a melodic, delicate trip through sorrow-filled vocal acrobatics and gloomy keys. What a trip.
This band is going places! Southern Cross on Down Below excels at creating mature, intelligent music that follows no trends and bends to no other man's will. Undeniably modern, I am sure there are those who won't like this that much, but for those of you who like adventurous and experimental music, this should be at the top of your list.
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