My first encounter with Omega Crom came courtesy of a manila envelope stuffed in my mailbox. It was my first promo CD, and having no preconceived notions of what the band might sound like my first impressions were naturally based entirely on the album art. In this case it was a cover which depicted a loincloth clad cartoon warrior who, with muscles rippling and battle axe poised, was leading a vicious mob of bloodthirsty minions into battle. How much more ridiculously metal can you get?
Combining elements of thrash with melodic interludes, harsh vocals and falsetto wailing, Blood, Fire & Steel can be best described as progressive power metal on speed. It is an album that doesn’t sit still for long, sometimes changing tempo and styles multiple times within a single song. The Passing of Azazel, for example, starts with a brief bass intro and a killer thrash riff that would be right at home on Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All , and somehow evolves into a melodic interlude involving a Spanish sounding guitar and mid-range vocals that reference Bruce Dickinson. If Iron Maiden, 3 Inches Of Blood and Into Eternity had a lovechild, it would sound something like this. On top of all that, each song is highlighted by at least one absolutely over-the-top guitar solo and in the case of Battlefield and The Prisoner (The Drawing), they throw it in before the song has even had time to gain momentum.
While this all makes for a very fun and technically proficient album, there are some glaringly obvious low points as well. When former vocalist and notorious falsetto Stu Block left to join Into Eternity, he left founder/guitarist Johnny Ketlo to tackle the full range of vocal duties himself. While his metal growl is fierce and often blood curdling, his high falsetto notes tend to fall short. Around the 4 minute mark on Battlefield there is a particular moment which sounds more like off-key wailing than it does epic singing. While I commend his ability to adapt and try, it all translates into inexperience and perhaps incapability. Keep in mind that this is Omega Crom’s first full length album and there is plenty of room to grow. Luckily it is not a problem which is difficult to solve, and hiring another vocalist to handle the falsetto passages could be just what they need to complement the band’s otherwise excellent sound.
Overall, Omega Crom deliver a high octane, testosterone fuelled charge into the realms of power, thrash and traditional metal territory. While not perfect, Blood, Fire & Steel has a tendency to remind you of all the things that made you fall in love with metal in the first place. You might not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can certainly judge an album by one.
written by Renee Trotier