Sunday, August 19, 2012

Russian Metal Week, Day 7: Круиз - Kruiz (1988)

Last day, last band, last album... For the last entry to the Russian Metal Week, let's do something original and special. Well, how about a Russian metal album... with English lyrics?

Круиз - Kruiz (Kruiz / Cruise - Kruiz)



Line-up:
Valeriy Gaina - vocals, guitar
Fedor Vasiliev - bass
Sergey Efimov - drums



Tracklist:
1. Knight Of The Road
2. Brave New World
3. Heaviest In Town
4. The Avenger
5. In Flames
6. Dream 5000 Years Long
7. Iron Rock
8. Possessed
9. "В огонь" (In Flames)

Kruiz has a complicated biography. From the very beginning, they were a pop band, producing such hit singles as 'Spinning Top Toy' (Крутится волчок), and are often criticized for following the heavy metal trend of the late eighties, when some bands were approved by the government to play this 'forbidden' music (another example would be Ariya, which, too, was formed from the remains of two pop bands). Under Valeriy Gaina's direction, Kruiz first released a hard rock'ish 'Cruise-1' (Круиз-1) album, which was okay... I assume, since I never heard it. And then, in an attempt to conquer the Western market, this LP was recorded. Stylistically, 'Kruiz' is a mix of speed and power metal with some thrash influences and extensive guitar work.

'Knight Of The Road' starts off with a weird intro, but it quickly transitions to the fast and heavy opener. It's a more-than-decent song with a great bridge and chorus, solid as a rock and definitely one of the album's highlights, at least the most memorable one. So much so it actually kinda weakens all the rest to come. After the great first song, 'Brave New World' seems to be a bit boring. While this is a good thrashy tune, it's not catchy at all. Some of the rhythm work is great, but you still partially forget it after the third track kicks in. 'Heaviest In Town' is an attempt to join speed metal and rock-n-roll, and a successful one at that. While the song sounds a lot like a lightweight version of Anthrax, the chorus is a bit silly though, but probably this silliness is intentional. After three better-than-average numbers we are bluntly presented to the worst one. Somehow, 'The Avenger' is regarded to be one of the top songs here, but I never really got it. It's just a very long and boring guitar jerking showcase with Gaina's annoying accent (which surprisingly is not noticeable at all on the songs before this one!), uninspired guitar riffs and idiotically written vocal melodies. The song does gain thrash speed during the solo, though, but by that time I don't think that anyone would give a hell. 'In Flames' is a little better, as it's a straightforward speed metal track with fast riffs, memorable vocals and lack of any boredom. If only it would sound somewhat more original, it could be awesome, which makes me wonder - even the worst songs here have a touch of complex songwriting and Gaina's understandable attempts at not sounding like another lot of American speed metal bands, which makes 'In Flames' seem to be bad even while the song itself is good.

Finally, after two meh pieces, there goes 'Dream 5000 Years Long', which tries hard to redeem all the flaws before it, and it does! Gone is Gaina's accent, gone are banal riffs and rhythms, the album starts sounding fresh and interesting again. It's speed-thrash metal as I like it - aggressive, but intelligent. But between this and another aggressively intelligent track, the band again inserts a really demented one. 'Iron Rock' is as silly as the title sounds - it is supposed to sound like Motorhead's rock-n-roll, but instead it sounds like a parody, especially when Gaina tries to growl. Of course, I can understand a pressure of him doing the vocals and all the guitar parts all by himself, but at least he could've stuck to the vocal style of the previous tracks, instead of sounding like a Chris Barnes wannabe growling 'IRON... RROCK!!'. Yeah, especially when you're trying to brutally pronounce such a laughable word combination. Finally, this madhouse comes to an end, and another intelligent song comes in, 'Possessed'. Again, it doesn't have any of the flaws mentioned above for all the lacking numbers, so all in all, it stands in a row with 'Knight Of The Road' and 'Dream 5000 Years Long'. It has speed, it has power, it has mood. And thankfully it does not have silly vocals, funny lyrics and boring guitarwork. But technically the album closes with another version of 'In Flames', with Russian lyrics. Not much to say... except of this one has Russian lyrics.

Of all the albums I have reviewed during this week, 'Kruiz' is the one I listen to the rarest, especially in its entirety. It's nice that it helped the band to get some popularity overseas (which their compatriots, Black Coffee, failed to achieve at their time), so they were invited to tour with none other than Living Death, and recently Michael Weikath of Helloween have said that 'Kruiz' is one of his all-time favorite LPs. Good for him, but to me, this platter is not flawless. Okay, it's not God-awful either, it's just my thoughts that such a breakthrough album could be ironed over a little to avoid making it a bit worse that Master's and The Black Obelisk's offerings. If only Mr Weikath could check out those!

My Rating: 7 / 10 (a couple of boring songs and a lot of cons, but nonetheless a metal masterpiece)