The Stockholm old-schoolers return with this, their third album, following from their last release, “Black Magic Fire” back in 2014. I have “Black Magic Fire” in my own personal collection, and while I remember enjoying it, I wasn’t completely blown away with it. There have been a couple of changes since then, with Cristian Canale taking over on the bass duties, while former backing-vocalist Karl Buhre taking over the mic full time.

So how have these personnel changes affected the sound? Patrick Nilsson and Alex Linder return on guitars, with Yasin Hilborg (ex-Afflicted) on drums. “Black Magic Fire” was a fun, if not essential oldschool romp through early death metal tropes. “Post Vulcanic Black” is really something quite different, with a nifty take on the early days of extreme metal, with hints of Morbid Tales era Celtic Frost, Show No Mercy period Slayer, and the dark melancholic melodic guitar playing of Mercyful Fate. If that sounds like too delicious a prospect to pass up, well, then I’d have to agree!

When the components click together – as they do on “War Chylde”, a heavy metal / thrash rager, then it’s absolutely killer stuff. In particular, the vintage guitar tones and scintillating duelling solos are absolutely mesmerising. Combining that with a rock solid rhythm section, and the vocals of Buhre – somewhere between a gruff roar and a raw, undisciplined but passionate singing tone ends up with a winning formula. When tracks like the epic “Hyper Moralist (Deemed Antichrist)” twist and turn while serpentine axe work writhes below the rhythm, it’s truly a glorious sound. So yes, the hammer-horror atmosphere of the guitars is likely to make some listeners wince, but isn’t that what early metal was all about? Venom-like aggression melds with some excellent musicianship all over this album.

There aren’t many missteps to be had. Even at the least essential, the Vader-lite neo-thrashism of “200 Divisions”, it’s still pretty good fun, even with a pretty jarring clean=sung up-beat section. “Copenhagen in the Seventies” (and isn’t that just the best track title?) is another album highlight, with eerie organs announcing the intro, before the song begins proper. It’s not unlike Ghost covering early Slayer with all amps turned up to 11. The riffing? So infectious you can start humming them just by being in close proximity to someone who’s heard them.

It’s really early days for 2018 I guess, but I absolutely love this album. It has a wicked atmosphere, brilliantly clear, punchy and organic production, with tremendously well played music. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who likes their metal authentic, fun, dark, aggressive and melodic. Certainly the best of Crucifyre’s career. Album of the year? It’s going to take some to knock this out of my end of year list.

(9/10 Chris Davison)