If they’re at all worth their salt, rock aficionados who are asked to name a Bay Area four-piece whose music is a direct descendant of the new wave of British heavy metal would assuredly say Metallica. And they’d be half right. Undeniably, at one time Metallica carried the torch for left-coast thrash metal. But anyone who has witnessed the tantrums of the band’s litigious Lilliputian behind the drums will attest that Metallica is a shadow of its former self. Who, then, will usurp the throne? With its full-length debut, Crucifire, my money is on Saviours.
Featuring Yaphet Kotto alums Austin Barber and Scott Batiste and Drunk Horse’s meandering bassist, Cyrus Comiskey, Saviours seem the clear favorites to champion metal’s return to prominence. Clocking in just shy of thirty-four minutes, Crucifire is a concise, unrelenting batch of thrash-metal nostalgia. In classic form, “Holy Slaughter” first gallops and then dissolves into impressive yet restrained harmonized guitars. It quickly becomes apparent that nearly all Saviours songs contain at least two distinct movements. Accordingly, the title track pummels and then seduces the listener, enticing even the uninitiated to bang their heads in agreement. For a change of pace, “Rise to Pyramid Form” boogies rather than wallops the audience. The sabbatical is short lived, however. “Exalter of Thorns” employs a hammering dual-lead guitar attack, and “Christhunt” display flawless ascending riffage mitigated by the ubiquitous chugga chugga. The latter half of Crucifire takes a turn toward the melodious, concluding with “Firewind,” which boasts organ and glockenspiel. Now that’s metal.
Whatever the reason, Crucifire elicits a clinched fist of glee rather than sneers of animosity. Saviours clearly understand that thrash metal used to be fun. Similarly, even the sleeve of Crucifire is a doff of the hat to the genre’s forefathers. Stunningly, the inside jacket demonstrates a mastery of the lost art of the “metal font.” If you have ever embellished a jean jacket (to your mother’s chagrin) you are familiar with the sans-serif typography where all junctions form acute angles. Ostensibly, this is to indicate just how vicious and wickedly sharp a band is. (Take note: Never trust a metal band with a sub-par logo. It’s going to be displayed proudly on a black T, after all. I digress.)
Thankfully, despite the omnipresent salutations to Motorhead, Iron Maiden and Venom, Crucifire does not sound the least bit derivative. The members of Saviours have studied, rather than cribbed from, their predecessors. And rest assured, Bob Rock won’t be allowed within ten feet of these boys. Cliff Burton would be proud.