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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Album Review: Crossfade - We All Bleed

Crossfade - We All Bleed
Eleven Seven Music
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

For whatever reason, stripping down from an ensemble to a trio rewarded Crossfade with a hit in 2006 on Falling Away. Now, the South Carolina radio rockers beef up to a quartet (not counting a gaggle of session players) and better yet, beef up their artistry for this year's We All Bleed, an album that should come as a surprise, not to Crossfade's fans, but everyone else.

This isn't the cheeriest band you'll ever come across. While most of Crossfade's FM peers cash in on images as party animals or mope-a-dopes, there's an honesty to this band you can't deny. They know they can sell albums yet instead of selling the sure thing, Crossfade opts to do something with We All Bleed and, goddamn, it's a success!

"Dead Memories" is a jumpy opening number with plenty of push and shove. The exciting tempo it establishes with a double hammmer groove and sweeping riffs gives this album a ton of promise. The next song, however, immediately changes the mood. No surprise, though, if you're familiar with Crossfade's writing modes. If "Killing Me Inside" didn't have a lot of texture and a space vacuum quality behind its slow drag, one might consider it ill-advised that Crossfade skid the undeniable momentum thundered out by "Dead Memories." Even by their own intentionally morose means. To its credit, though, "Killing Me Inside" grows in intensity on the furnace blast of Ed Sloan and Les Hall's titanic guitar sculpts and patience leads to satisfaction.

"Prove You Wrong" is where Crossfade seeks its next chart-climbing "Cold" and "Invicible," a heat-seeking radio strike filled with the usual chunk-hum, chunk-hum agro-meets-pop structure. Difference here, however, is how efficiently "Prove You Wrong" handles its business. It's the rare AOR jam which you feel like you've missed something because of how quick and tidy Crossfade executes it.

"Lay Me Down" might've suffered greatly had Crossfade not exploded all over the solo section and those rippling solos carry forward into the final stanza of the otherwise lumbering tune. For once, a hard rock band playing in this style delivers a freaking payoff! Les Hall's dandy piano work here and on "Prove You Wrong" signal the typical would-be-slickness of Crossfade's power pack contemporaries. Yet because this band are such strong songwriters, let it all come in the decorative measures Hall and Crossfade intend them.

"Dear Cocaine" likewise keeps a low-key swirl driven largely on an acoustic lace and reserved beat pattern until Crossfade pours the lava with wah pedals, meaty chords and Mitch James' empathetic vocals. James, along with Ed Sloan, really knock out homeruns on the mike together, and Les Hall keeps their parallel octaves in check. In a way, "Dead Cocaine" plays its hand similar to Black Label Society, even if lacking a superstar name like Zakk Wylde in their fold. The subsequent anti-ballad "Suffocate" is full of rare emotion encased within an obvious commercial vibe. Once again, its the extracurriculars Crossfade puts into "Suffocate" (i.e. strings, keys, gut-punching singing and a magnificent shred solo) that really defines who and what this group is about.

Crossfade are to be commended because you can feel the inner turmoil on just how much to stray to one side or the other in their song structuring. Part of We All Bleed seems tailored as an audition why Crossfade should be hitting the circuit on a bill with Red, Drowning Pool, Apocalyptica and Skillet. After all, Crossfade are platinum sellers in their own right.

Still, they tailor these songs with class, dignity and best of all, personality. We All Bleed may stay stuck in a shambling mode for most of the ride, yet Crossfade is so graceful about it, particularly when they have enough respect for themselves to pile on the layers and give their compositions actual character. It makes all the difference as to whether an obvious tear-jerker like "I Think You Should Know" is fluff or heavy in the proper sense.

Every time you think Crossfade is about to sell out their tunes on We All Bleed, they come right back and, forgive the awful pun, prove you wrong. This is an album that should've failed because of its bleak crawl and inherent mainstream tendencies, yet it adversely comes off as a huge standout of its ilk. This is easily the most listenable and well-functioned AOR-bred album that's come along in ages. At this point, Crossfade's fans are probably considering DJ Tony Byroads an afterthought.

Every so often, the radio giants actually make a statement.

Rating: ****


Fusionrise said...

Crossfade really seems to have come along way since their last album, I like the sound of this one better!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Ditto, my friend. This one caught me way by surprise. I hope they keep on this path.