Album Review: Cruel Force – Dawn of the Axe

Album Review: Cruel Force – Dawn of the Axe
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Few bands began as strongly and were cut short as Cruel Force were in the early 2010s, rising to heights quickly and nurturing a loyal fanbase. Formed in 2008 originally out of the German Rhineland, now settling around Baden, the band’s blackened thrash style resonated greatly amidst fans when their first Demo, Into The Crypts, saw daylight but truly broke the walls down amidst the general metal populace with the unveiling of their first full length work: 2010’s The Rise Of Satanic Might. This blinding album debut was only supported by their follow-up just a year later with 2011’s Under The Sign Of The Moon, truly the record that opened my eyes on this band’s promise. To the misfortune of all, Cruel Force called it a day in 2012 and for a decade nothing stirred for the band. However, by last year, Cruel Force had finally returned to life and now, this year, the band prepare to release their third full length work, Dawn Of The Axe, a true rebirth, for a September 22nd release date. Already signed on to Shadow Kingdom Records for this record, Cruel Force are back with an almost intact lineup, other than a new Bassist at the helm, and appear ready to ensnare their audiences once more. Let’s see what we can make of this comeback.

It cannot be overstated what a joyous return Cruel Force must be experiencing right now, having not released a full length work in over a decade. It’s all the more prevalent considering how the band have retained that retro style of blackened thrash as crisply and truthfully as their earliest records possessed. The opening track “Azeael’s Dawn” is a wonderfully simple yet effective album opener, reintroducing the band to the wider world of metal after too long an absence. The muddied production quality is still here, the unrefined mix just as present as ever before; it may have been eleven years since their last album but Cruel Force still feel like a band that’s travelled forward in time from the depths of the 80s and it’s primeval blackened works of extreme metal. The band have always opted to play with speed but due to the production slapped upon Dawn Of The Axe, the record is coated with this murky gloss that aids the band at shining through and giving their sound a real believability that splits them away from the rank and file looking to to give their own retro worship. That was always a strong point of Cruel Force; their aesthetic felt very natural to their performance and it’s no different herein.

The best kind of vocals, if you ask me, are when the delivery cannot be separated from the rest of the instrumentation, when the vocals just feel right at home amongst the songwriting on display. That much is true here as vocalist Michael “Carnivore” Dall effortlessly exudes dripping malice through his icy yet impactful vocal performance. When you hear his delivery throughout the record, it’s tough to think of this album as instrumentation and vocals separately for the two feel completely intertwined. It’s just as well too since he band’s retro aesthetic has bound everything together into a single, cohesive unit whereby it is difficult to make out elements within as individual pieces. That’s when you know a band’s sound is on point for we cannot analyse the record without admitting how well everything meshes together. Whatever chemistry Cruel Force possesses results in a soundscape that’s wondrously old school, yet the vocals still harness a punch that modern mixing technology has allowed.

Album Review: Cruel Force – Dawn of the Axe

So we’ve touched upon the band’s love of the retro aesthetic, yet that doesn’t mean they wanted their riffs and instrumentation to fall to the wayside and result in a lacklustre performance. The guitar work here is great for not only do the band exude that early Venom-style of attitude through their songwriting, but they stick the landing with their riffs too. The band, as aforementioned, prefer playing with speed, but they don’t allow that speed to overtake the strength their riffs are imbued with for track like “Night Of Thunder” is a quick piece but you can easily follow along to whatever segment of riffs the band hurl your way. The band may not be holding your hand but they’ve got every intention of letting you at least see where they’re taking you. The band harness speed effectively for, while we recognise they’re moving at a substantial pace, their riffs still hit the ground running and with legitimate presence so we can look back on a track and know there was real impact made.

I appreciate that while this isn’t the most cavernous record you’ll hear, the band still went out of their way to ensure Dawn Of The Axe was an album that still punched you where it hurts, for a lighter mix would have rendered their sound with a thinner lining. It’s not only thanks to their bassist, boasting his first album credit with the band, nor to returning drummer GG Alex whose bass drumming is excellent throughout select phases of songwriting when the timing calls for it, but I think because of how the relaxed was mixed on the whole. We mentioned beforehand how the riffs land with a clenched ferocity, and possess the presence necessary to keep us enthralled, and I believe it’s because the mix has been tweaked just enough for the band to stick the landing without changing their established aesthetic all that much. The drums, while not as to the forefront as the riffs or vocal delivery, are still powerful and strike with that retro crash we’ve all come to recognise and rejoice over. It’s good to know that, in their absence, the band haven’t forsaken the crux of what enamoured them to people in the first place.

In conclusion, Cruel Force’s return is triumphant for the band unleash an album that’s easily a decade late. Other than a new bassist, the entirety of the band prior to their breakup in 2012 is present and therefore understands what makes their sound the prominent force that it was regarded as back in the day. It’s refreshing to see a band be welcomed back with such open arms and Dawn Of The Axe just shows how it’s not for superficial reasons, but a genuine desire to get back out there and make the blackened thrash the band are renowned for churning out. Personally, I can be a little picky regarding blackened thrash but Cruel Force have an acute understanding of what makes it such a promising style for us to sink our teeth into. Utilising speed as well as a strong riff impact, the band have a presence that few other blackened speed bands share. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and it’s good to see Cruel Force are back on form and ready to share with us yet more blackened goodness.

For all the latest news, reviews, interviews across the heavy metal spectrum follow THE RAZORS'S EDGE on facebook, twitter and instagram.