Bulgaria is not exactly renowned as a hotbed of metal excellence, which may go some way towards explaining why it has taken power metallers Krossfire a full decade not only to earn a profile outside their homeland but also to release what is, in fact, their debut album.
On the evidence of the eight tracks (ten if you count two orchestral ‘overtures’) offered here, it has been worth the weight, as this is a damn fine, highly impressive first effort.
Very much in the Blind Guardian / Hammerfall mode, this is as good an example of melodic yet heavy metal as you are going to hear. Opener ‘War Machine’ is built on a crunching bass riff as the song moves inexorably forward while ‘How Can There Be…?’ has a very Dream Theater-like vibe to it, especially in the interplay between Georgi Kushev’s guitar and Peter Boshkanov’s keyboards, the latter of which are given a real workout on the idyllic ‘Icaria’ interlude which prequels the album’s glorious title track. Picking up its theme halfway through the prelude, ‘Learning To Fly’ builds from a crunching riff into a glorious musical workout which reflects its subject matter as, soaring and swooping, sweeping majestically across the soundscape, the vocals of Dimo Petkov truly come into their own.
Petkov is a real talent, his bassier voice suiting the pomp and majesty of the material and fitting the lyrics, with their themes of war and hope – although there is a nagging feeling that he is holding back and is capable of much more, especially on the likes of ‘Touch Of Destiny’ and the glorious ‘False Reality’, where the underpinning roles of bassist Georgi Driev and drummer Spas Markov also come into their own, as they propel the track along in rollicking style, particularly in the latter half.
It’s not really fair to pick out highlight tracks, as those offered here are obviously carefully selected to reflected Krossfire’s decade-long pedigree and, as such, each has it’s own merits and strengths. The obvious single is ‘Angels Cry’, which comes across like Iron Maiden fronted by Geoff Tate and features a beautiful solo, while the use of female vocals on the mellow closer ‘The One’ counterpoint everything that has come before and round the album off in beautiful, acoustic style.
This is definitely a debut worth looking out for, and hopefully some live action outside of Bulgaria won’t be too far in the future.
“Learning To Fly” is released on Pure Steel Records on 28 January.