Crucifyre are no strangers to the crucible of the Angry Metal Guy review. Way back in 2014, Madam X pilloried Crucifyre‘s Black Magic Fire for “mimicking what’s been done before” and its “lack of adventure.” It appears the band took at least one of those criticisms to heart. Past adding a new vocalist and a new bassist, third try Post Vulcanic Black plays up the band’s quirks, sounding more eclectic and experimental than ever before (at least as far as death-thrash goes). But unfortunately for the Swedes, strengthening one area only weakens the others. Crucifyre remain locked outside of the Goldilocks Zone, still looking for what works just right.
On the surface, Crucifyre sounds far more occult than you would expect from a death-thrash outfit. In actuality, “death” and “thrash” fit together here rather obliquely compared to the material greened in Mark Z‘s School of Goats, Boobs, and Meanness. Crucifyre roll it way, way back, dosing opener “Post Vulcanic Black” with the methodical pseudo-thrash of second-period Slayer. They play it close to the source, with the gradual build stomping through Lombardo’s peony garden at times, while the undulating riffs evolve out of a worship of South of Heaven. Though points of Post Vulcanic Black delve deeper into the plod of doom or the atmosphere of the occult, the opener plays it pretty even. The undulating riffs of follow-up “Thrashing With Violence” twists that Slayer worship two years forward, grabbing what they can from Seasons in the Abyss. However, excepting new addition Karl Buhre’s curdling death growls, there’s not much going on here that Slayer didn’t do thirty years ago. That feeling is only exacerbated when Buhre’s clean choruses emulate the belligerent Tom Araya shouts that encapsulated that era.
It is the Mercyful Fate stylings and doomy vocals of “Mother Superior’s Eyes” that signals the ascent of PVB‘s disorientation factor. The proceedings henceforth crunch through the heavy crust of Vallenfyre, retro occult doom mixing Ghost and Black Sabbath, even odd Lemmy-isms of “Hyper Moralist (Deemed Antichrist)” and off-kilter folk aspects of “Död Människa?” The deployment of Slayer influences avoids over-saturation and adds a surprising amount of depth, given how rote Crucifyre‘s worship seemed up front. Unfortunately, the balls-to-the-wall aspects of Crucifyre‘s previous work fall by the wayside, leaving songs that are interesting on paper but uninspiring in practice. Tracks often take too long to develop or, worse, recycle their lone interesting aspects until you’re sick of them. “Död Människa?” does both and sounds like Kvelertak played by death metal somnambulists rather than neck-breaking disembowlers.
That’s not to suggest the music is terrible, just that it struts with an uninspiring gait. The deliberate songcraft ensures the random strands of influences, the instrumentation remains strong, and the solos are eye-catching strong and well-slotted. Crucifyre clearly has both hands on the wheel, but it just happens to be someone else’s bus. When Crucifyre put everything together, like on “Murder and Sex and Self-Destruction,” “200 Divisions” or the Black Sabbath-tinged “Copenhagen in the Seventies,” they suggest that they might have that killer instinct after all. But as the record progresses and riff after riff sails by unaffectingly, the question turns to whether or not Crucifyre will ever pull something ear-catching out of the muck. With long track times and that lyrical repetition issue from BMF still lingering around, the answer is too often no.
After several listens, I can definitively tell you that certain aspects of this record will stick with you – mostly the repetitive choruses. The rest of the record fades away the moment it leaves your side. Black Magic Fire lacked originality so viscerally that Crucifyre cannot be faulted for their attempts to spice up their music. However, that comes at the sacrifice of the blood-pumping element that any music branding itself as death or thrash should have. PVB fuses genres without an ear for what truly makes the disparate sounds transcendent. The result is competent and capable and not much more. Crucifyre attempt to take one step forward and wind up taking two steps back.