Album Review – Crossbones / WWIII (2017)

The most longstanding and influential metal act from Albania returns with a brand new opus, combining American Thrash Metal influences with a dark sound and typical Eastern European sonorities.

When vocalist Olsi Ballta grabbed an Albanian-English dictionary in 1996 and picked the first word on the page he randomly opened, he had no idea he would be founding the most recognized metal act in Albania and the only band from the mid 90’s that kept going. That’s how everything started for Tirana-based Heavy/Thrash Metal band Crossbones, the first Albanian rock band to have released a genuine full-length album on CD (their debut album called Days Of Rage, from 1997), who led them to play several concerts and festivals in the local scene, as well as within the region comprised of Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece and Kosovo, and to perform alongside major names such as Ian Paice (Deep Purple’s legendary drummer) and Rotting Christ.

After the release of a few singles, demos, a live album, a compilation and a stylish box set in the following years, Crossbones are finally back with new material, the full-length record entitled WWIII, combining American Thrash Metal influences with a dark sound and typical Eastern European sonorities in order to provide the listener a full-bodied metal attack that effectively represents not only the name and the artwork of the album, but also the core essence of the band. Perhaps due to the fact that Crossbones have been active through a couple of decades already, the music found in WWIII will provide you a voyage through old school and modern metal music, which only brings more flavor to the entire album. And let’s be honest, for a band that comes from a country where metal has absolutely (and unfortunately) zero support, what these guys do with their music is beyond fantastic.

The high amount of heaviness and groove emanating from all instruments from the very first second in I’m God, a potent mid-tempo Groove Metal composition with blazing guitar solos and neck-breaking riffs, will punch you in the face mercilessly, with lead singer Olsi Ballta delivering classic and melodious Thrash Metal vocal lines. And that’s only the beginning, as the straightforward tune Gates of Hell, led by guitarist Ben Turku and his slashing riffs, will please all fans of heavy music, with drummer Theo Napoloni and bassist Klejd Guza adding tons of groove to the musicality with their pounding beats and thunderous notes, respectively. In the slightly more atmospheric (but still as heavy as hell) Gjallë, or “alive” from Albanian, Theo and Klejd once again become the dynamic duo of fierceness, setting the perfect tone for Olsi to growl the song’s lyrics (which by the way are in Albanian).

The interesting WTF, which obviously means “what the fuck”, is more alternative than all previous tracks, focusing on the cutting strings by both Ben and Klejd while Olsi fires anguished and acid vocals, therefore increasing the song’s obscurity, with its ending being a sheer Groove Metal feast; whereas Messing with the Masses is a lot more introspective and somber, albeit not as exciting as the rest of the album. The dissonant and macabre guitar solo by Ben halfway through it is very effective though, while its second half sounds like a completely different song, being a mix of Alternative and Nu Metal. Schizo gets back to a more direct metal sonority thanks to the high dosage of harmony coming from the guitars by Ben, with Olsi also singing in his mother tongue and sounding more aggressive and demented, in sync with the theme proposed by the song’s name.

Rise offers thrilling Heavy Metal the way we headbanging bastards like it, also bringing elements from Sludge and Stoner Metal (therefore showing the band’s versatility) while Klejd simply kicks ass with his bass lines, supporting the song’s old school metallic lyrics (“I’m taking my chances / Roaming the streets / A wild stab in the dark / And over the fences / A million of thoughts / And fresh blood in the heart”). After a short eerie intro, the band delivers a dark version of Groove Metal with elements from Gothic Rock and Metal in You Fool, where Olsi steals the spotlight with his melancholic growls, supported by the heavy, obscure sounds blasted by all other bands members; followed by That Kind of Feeling, a dark semi-ballad by Crossbones featuring melodic elements from contemporary metal music blended with traditional vocal lines and the punch of Groove Metal, adding more taste to the album. And the second installment of the opening track, simply titled I’m God, Pt. 2, closes WWIII, beginning in a very sorrowful and pensive manner and being a lot more atmospheric than any other song of the album. In other words, a beautiful ending for WWIII, with Olsi having a truly passionate performance on vocals.

If you want to show your support to Crossbones and Albanian metal, simply visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel, SoundCloud and ReverbNation, and buy your copy of WWIII on iTunes, Amazon, Target, CD Universe, Walmart, hbdirect.com and several other retailers. We might not be ready for a real-life World War III, but we should all be more than happy with the music presented by this longstanding Albanian squad in WWIII, an album that will certainly cement the legacy of such important band for metal in Albania, in Eastern Europe and anywhere else where good music is appreciated.

Best moments of the album: Gates of Hell, Gjallë and Rise.

Worst moments of the album: Messing with the Masses.

Released in 2017 Nadir Music

Track listing
1. I’m God 6:55
2. Gates of Hell 5:52
3. Gjallë 4:39
4. WTF 6:32
5. Messing with the Masses 5:23
6. Schizo 6:05
7. Rise 4:41
8. You Fool 4:38
9. That Kind of Feeling 5:58
10. I’m God, Pt. 2 3:39

Band members
Olsi Ballta – vocals
Ben Turku – guitars
Klejd Guza – bass
Theo Napoloni – drums

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