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Broken Cross/Vegas, Split (Apocalyptic Visions, 2017)

This incredibly logical pairing of dark musical enigmas is probably long overdue. Though, if I'm being honest, I have not followed Sweden's Broken Cross as closely as I should have over the years, but that changes now. In my opinion, "Ancient Execution" is without question the one-man project's finest offering to date; primarily due to improved production values that are slightly brighter, clearer, and more balanced—shedding new light on what the outfit has to offer. It would be impossible not to cite the track's intro as quite reminiscent of Integrity's "Judgment Day," and the influential foundation of said legends' midpaced metallic hardcore is then accented by slick dual guitar harmonies reminiscent of portions of G.I.S.M.'s Military Affairs Neurotic LP. Vocally, however, the approach heads in a different direction with sort of a howled snarl blended right in alongside the instrumentation. And there's a surprising twist toward the end, with some lush acoustic guitars and droning chants alongside samples of pained weeping and a sword battle. All in all, Broken Cross takes a very serious step up to a new level here. Impressive.

Quietly revealing a track or two at a time as of late, Vegas herein continues their recent string of prolificity. "Running on Empty" opens with an ultra raw acoustic passage that gives way to plodding midpaced power chords and the group's patented, nearly-indecipherably layered vocals masked by heavy effects for added mystique—a few explosive yet melodic lead bursts thrown in for good measure. "Promise Made at the Crossroads," then, unloads just under a minute of chaotic ferocity, featuring some of the harshest riffing and most breakneck percussion I can recall having heard from Vegas in the past. Closing with a Sakevi-ish grunt of seeming approval, one almost has to crack a little smile...

I've yet to hold the physical product in my hands, but it's only appropriate that the fittingly appealing cover artwork was handled by none other than Dwid Hellion himself. Available in three rather interesting variations on pink marbled vinyl, I have to point out just how reasonably priced the records are, too. I'm really not much of a collector type, but I actually ordered one of each edition in this case, because even with shipping to the U.S. from Sweden, the total cost was impressively low. That being said, the "Disney Edition" (limited to 36) has already sold out, with the "Gold Edition" (limited to 42) soon to follow, so... procrastinators will suffer.

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