It’s hard to imagine a Metal band in 2010 (the year the band was formed) coming up with a name as unimaginative as Crusader. There are already half a dozen Crusaders but I believe this is the first American band with the name. Shortly after an independent debut EP in 2011, the band signed with StormSpell Records for their debut album, ONWARD INTO BATTLE.
If the band name is slightly uninspired, the album title ONWARD INTO BATTLE rings true, like Cimmerian steel. They could not have come up with a finer introduction to the Metal world. First impressions are important, especially if a young band choose to make music in the very crowded arena of Classic/Power Metal. However, Crusader were up to the challenge and the album cover looks fantastic, very eye-catching, rendered by fantasy artist Eugene Jaworski. The 12 page full-colour booklet provides lyrics that sing of glory and war as well as photos of the five crusaders.
ONWARD INTO BATTLE is a very commendable example of classic Metal, done well. The strong’s are conventional for the most part but they are not afraid to stretch out in the songwriting with a couple songs in the six and seven minute range, marked by some nice tempo changes, like the one in ‘Witchhunt’. The album is anchored in the middle by a 9+ minute epic called, ‘Arturius’. The guitar tone is nice and thick and the bass is clear and audible which I always like. There are also some subtle sonic embellishments such as church bells, crackling fire and other flourishes that enhance the atmosphere of the album.
The vocals are delivered in a very aggressive, masculine fashion by Hoagy, maybe not so much sung by delivered and roared like a crusader charging onward into battle. The whole album has a really surging punishing feel to the riffs. The songs are not exceptional fast but they are really punchy and forceful. There is enough melody to make them listenable and inviting and well worthy of a good head-banging session, especially cuts like, ‘Zero Hour’ with a ride out worthy of a headlong charge into the enemy ranks.
ONWARD INTO BATTLE is really deeply rooted in all the best parts of classic American Metal. Intense and relentless it is a very fine debut. I hope they continue their crusade in the name of real Metal.
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