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Omega Crom - "Blood, Steel and Fire" (CD)

Omega Crom - "Blood, Steel and Fire" CD cover image

"Blood, Steel and Fire" track listing:

1. Warpath
2. Battlefield
3. Calling The Dead
4. The Passing of Azazel
5. Teh Prisoner (The Drawing)
6. Playing God
7. Parliament of Stone
8. F.F.O.H.T.L
9. Metal Revolution

Reviewed by on April 19, 2010

"For the solos alone, this album is more than worth a listen."

In the liner notes to Omega Crom's "Blood, Steel and Fire," you'll see a list of bands: AC/DC, Pantera, Metallica, Megadeth, Sepultura, Slayer, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Imagine putting all of those bands into a blender set to liquify, and you'll have an idea of the sonic cocktail served up by Omega Crom on an album that works far better than it has a right to.

It helps that this Canadian band's dual-guitar assault team, Johnny Ketlo and Wayne Holden, are definitely upholding the Hanneman-King/Tipton-Downing/Murray-Smith-Gers/Mustaine-whoever it is this week tradition of maximum shred. For the solos alone, this album is more than worth a listen.

Ketlo also handles the vocals, and that's where things get ... well, quite honestly, the vocals are seriously fucked up, but I mean that in the best way possible. Somehow, Ketlo manages to combine guttural Max Cavalera-style vocals with Rob Halford style melodic vocals and falsetto shrieks (calling it "Judas Priest on steroids" in the band's PR materials), and usually, it works out pretty well.

That Judas Priest feel is felt strongly on "Battlefield," the album's second track (the first, "Warpath," is 30 seconds of medieval clanging). Ketlo howls over a wall of guitars just a bit thrashier than those you'd find on "Painkiller," and even bassist Ian Wilcke gets a chance to show off some seriously speedy chops. And then, there's the galloping ending that gets all Maiden on us, complete with Dickinson-style "whoa" vocals, followed by some growls.

Then, it's a total shift of gears, with Ketlo growling and the band shifting into a more groovy gear that's definitely got a Pantera meets Sepultura feel on "Calling Of The Dead." Then, without missing a beat, Ketlo goes back into Halford mode, even though the guitars are still set to full-on thrash.

The disc's best track, "The Passing Of Azazel" shows us what Slayer would sound like with Rob Halford fronting the band. Drummer Dan La Pierre does Dave Lombardo proud here, keeping it all from flying off the rails, despite countless changes in speed, including an acoustic interlude that is so Metallica, I'm afraid Lars Ulrich might sue.

The one time the band isn't able to make all these disparate ingredients work together is "Parliament Of Stone," in which a Maiden-esque intro isn't given room to breathe before turning into full-on thrash, and the many style changes and solos just come on too fast to keep track of. Yeah, the guitar work is stellar, but it's far too disjointed to enjoy. My only other complaint is that, at more than 10 minutes, "Metal Revolution" might be a little too long ... emphasis on the "might."

Production-wise, everything's pretty well done, save that on "Battlefield," the drums sound awfully tinny. A little more bass here and there would've helped, but, as I noted earlier, Wilcke is surprisingly evident on the album, given the thrash and death influence.

When your band's name comes from Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian, your metal had better be the stuff of legend. With "Blood, Steel and Fire," Omega Crom has taken the metal of their forefathers and forged it into a mighty ax that will cut down all non-believing metalheads.

Highs: Superb playing all around, but "Battlefield" and especially "The Passing Of Azazel" stand out.

Lows: The far-too-fragmented "Parliament Of Stone."

Bottom line: A superb thrasher that blends elements of the greatest bands in metal.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)