The Belarusian black metal band Downcross made a startling debut with their first album, Mysteries of Left Path. To paraphrase what we wrote in introducing our premiere of the album early last year, every one of the eight tracks on the album was emotionally powerful, and powerful in the production of their sound. They included magnetically attractive melodic hooks and shifts among contrasting moods within each song — from cold-hearted to glorious, from bereft to barbaric, and much more.
There was also heavyweight heft in the low end, and tremendous, penetrating, gleaming vibrancy in the guitar tones (without becoming completely “clean” in their tone). The drumming rocked and romped as often as it thundered, and there were as many hook-laden strummed chords as the dense wash of blazing tremolo vibrations.
The duo of vocalist/drummer Ldzmr and guitarist Dzmtr quickly proved that their debut was no fluke, because their second album (which we also premiered last fall), What Light Covers Not, was also tremendously good, and further vivid evidence that Downcross are gifted songwriters.
That second album again demonstrated that Downcross can blast and ravage with considerable ferocity, but what set the album apart from the great mass of melodic black metal releases last year was how effortlessly (or so it seemed) the thrilling riffs and engaging melodies were crafted. Downcross proved they can blaze like a bonfire, but it was all the addictive hooks, coupled with the hard-rocking grooves, that made the album one that was so easy and so gratifying to come back to, over and over. And every one of those songs (other than some contrasting but still attention-grabbing instrumental interludes), at one point or another, also becomes a huge neck-bender, making the album a headbanger’s haven as well as a turbine of emotional power.
And now Downcross are returning with a new EP — Current Towards End — and we are thrilled to once again be the host for the premiere the day before its April 9 release by Cavum Atrum, because Downcross have done it again.
I’ve written previously that Dzmtr has a formidable talent for creating (for want of a better word) “foundational” melodies for each song, and then adapting them, elaborating upon the musical themes in ways that change the mood within each song without losing the coherence of those themes. And that’s again true on this new EP. Moreover, it once again displays Ldzmr‘s talent for changing the drum rhythms and patterns in ways that mesh beautifully (and sometimes unexpectedly so) with the alterations in the riffing. And maybe to an even greater extent than before, Downcross have integrated metal and rock influences that go well beyond the traditional confines of black metal.
The opener “Where Veil Of Flesh Will Tear” is loaded with electrifying riffs. It’s a Grade A adrenaline trigger, and a fast-acting, head-hooking thrill on top of that. It launches with a killer thrash riff and a heavy-weight bass line combined with booming drums and scorching vocals. Momentous chords and a fiery swirling riff provide the prelude to blasting percussion and an incendiary scream, which in turn propel the band into a galloping gait, the riffing still on fire, wild and whirling. Before the end you’ll meet again that electrifying thrash riff, as well as a quickly addictive flickering lead.
Downcross create a powerful contrast with that opening track in the way they begin the next one, “War Maiden of The Worlds“. At first it’s slower, and the melody is gloom-cloaked and aching. But at the guitar bridge you can feel something coming, a coiling of power in preparation for the strike — and it comes in a flurry of blasting and snarling and ferocious ripping fretwork. But the song also segues into rocking beats and head-moving strummed chords, as well as riffing that channels darkness and dolor, as well as throat-splitting vocals. It’s further proof of how seamlessly and effectively Downcross meld together an array of riffs and rhythms and changing moods to keep a listener nailed in place
The multi-faceted nature of the band’s songwriting is again demonstrated by “Lord Of The Dark Sun Force“. It’s an immediate rush of racing blasts and wintry melody, a whirl of cold wind and melancholy. The riffing is just as quickly contagious as on the first two songs, and maybe even more memorable. The song also includes a sparkling lead and extravagant screaming, and it soars in warlike grandeur, while also delivering neck-snapping snare beats and slashing guitars. The song has a dramatic, mythic atmosphere, and that heart-felt central melody really does get stuck in the head like a spike.
The title track comes last. Mid-paced at first, it introduces a bewitching riff that infiltrates the mind quickly, anchored by rumbling double-bass and elevated by the by-now familiar vocal intensity. The lead-guitar work in the song really is magical and mesmerizing, though the gleaming arpeggios are also surrounded by shadow, completely enthralling but shaded by darkness and peril. And at the end, it sounds like we have suddenly been transported into a celestial realm.
I suppose it could not be more obvious that I’m a huge fan of this band, and I’m not inclined to try to downplay my enthusiasm or cool down my ardor. I hope you’ll be just as taken with the music as I am, and will help spread the word about it — not just this new EP but the two albums that preceded it.
Current Towards End will be released on CD as well as digitally. You can place orders for those options, as well as related merch, via the Bandcamp link below.