In nature there is life and there is death; there is beauty and there is harshness; there is splendor and there is terror. Our world is patterned in dichotomy, and it should be no different with music. Brutal Cross is a death metal band that exemplifies this truth, as they cross gurgling vocals and tonal ruggedness with blissful symphonic music. At War, the band’s third full-length album, is the pinnacle of their career and an archetype of diversity.
The Polish-turned-Irish band is the brainchild of Tomasz Sulowski, who performs all of the instruments and vocals. Some one-man bands are decidedly lacking in at least one area, but to Sulowski’s credit, I wasn’t even aware that he was the only one behind the reins until I did some research. The vocals are a midrange growl that could find a home in either death or black metal. One of the most impressive aspects of the record is definitely the guitars. They have a meaty, crunchy tone that harkens back to the glory days of death metal. Melodic riffs abound on At War, and some of these sections bring to mind Death’s Sound of Perseverance with their tenacity and clout. There also seems to be a degree of influence from Scrolls-era Mortification and early Lament. The listener will find symphonic and melodic elements interspersed amidst the traditional elements of death and black metal, which makes Brutal Cross stand out from among the myriads. The keys grip you and don’t let go, adding an element of melodic diversity to the record. The band is decidedly Christian, weaving faith-inspired lyrics throughout the music.
The mixing quality is a bit rough around the edges, although with this caliber of death metal that’s not really an issue; for some, it may be a positive element. However, the instrumental balance bothers me somewhat. For some reason, a number of the symphonic portions seem to be a bit too loud, and the low end is more or less buried. At War contains 14 tracks of varying lengths, without any overly long songs and only one short instrumental (“Outro”). Songs like “Cult” and “Occult” have some creepy instrumentation, and this serves to keep the record interesting towards the middle. “Born Again” showcases a driving, melodic intensity, and “War Cry” is the closest that the band comes to thrash metal. There is a bit of clean singing on the tracks “Silence on the Cross” and “At War.” I am unconvinced that this suits the bands’ overall style, and as a critic I would have to say that this element may only distract and put off some death metal fans. At War recovers with “Sea of Despair,” a well-layered track that pushes towards an eerie guitar solo, and then closes out with a short instrumental.
Fans of death metal will find it well worth their time to check out this relatively unknown band. Brutal Cross delivers an intriguing meld of death metal and melody, all without sacrificing creativity or quality. Truly, Brutal Cross is aptly named – they are a vehicle of brutality and destruction, infused with hope and beauty.