Released: 2009, Pure Steel Records
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
Holy Cross, this 5-headed power/heavy metal crew, originates from St. Étienne in the French department of Rhône - Alpes, was formed in 2006, and since then they have been raising the flag for their timeless sounding power/heavy metal the best they can.
UNDER THE FLAG is the band´s debut album on a German true metal label Pure Steel Records, and it is said to have musical associations with American metal bands like Iced Earth, Cage, Jag Panzer and such (I would also add Manowar to this pile), but also some Eastern European acts, as Pokolgép, Arakain and Omen (Hun) as well - not forgetting a dose of some British steel ála Priest and Maiden completely either. I have no hard times personally subscribing to all of those aforementioned influences on this record, even if in the same breath I have to confess I have yet to hear Arakain and Hungarian Omen.
To me Holy Cross sounds kinda straightforward and aggressive sounding heavy metal band more than any band that could be associated with the term power metal anyway. The vibe of ´80s is rather strongly present in Holy Cross´ sound, which is always something that makes me somehow, for some strange reason, give some extra credit for bands of that ink. Mickael Champon, the band´s vocalist, is of course a pretty notable part for the band´s entire sound, being able to come up with a pleasingly large range of different vocal styles; from melodic vocal harmonies to relatively high-pitched screams to some evil type of shrieks. Check out a song called “Return to Asgard”, in which some of Mickael´s vocal lines are quite Manowar-ish even, starting especially from the 2:03 minute mark).
What surely helps them to become more recognized by the masses, is the band´s energetic - and in a good way melodic yet balanced style. There´s nothing that original or unique in them really musically, but that is also one of those reasons why it is so easy to like them and what they do on UNDER THE FLAG. Who says an aggressive and straightforward sounding heavy metal record should always be that unique or original sounding to be liked and enjoyed? No, it does not have to as long as it is well done with a good sense and taste. The Holy Cross camp has realized this and can be proud of the final outcome on their debut full-length album. It does not break down any barricades because it does not have to in the first place at all. A very solid heavy metal album nevertheless.