Crossfire - Sharpshooter
Mausoleum Records
Speed Metal
6 songs (32' 11")
Release year: 1986
Mausoleum Records
Reviewed by Andy
Archive review

I'm a sucker for 80s speed metal albums, even obscure ones that may not have been terribly innovative, just for their raw enthusiasm. For all their high-reverb, low-production-quality silliness, they nevertheless can sweep a listener off his feet even nowadays with their pounding beat and fist-pumping choruses. Belgian band Crossfire's last full-length album, Sharpshooter, produced in 1986 a year before their final breakup, is one of these. I got hold of it a few months ago on a whim, and though it has plenty of the aforementioned problems, its energy, especially on the live tracks, is quite infectious, and I can't resist reviewing it for your benefit. Forget about whether this is groundbreaking or relevant -- that doesn't matter for a moment. This is a fun album.

Crossfire has all the influences of the 80s: Elaborate guitar soloing, reverb-filled drums, catchy hook-filled songs, and hoarse vocals punctuated by screams. Guitarists Jacky D'Hondt and Marc Van Caelenberge more than do justice to the aggressive sound right away: Break Out sets the tone for what is to come -- high-speed riffs with howled lyrics and a wah-wah-drenched lead guitar --, which continues in a different time signature with the somewhat better Killer Queen (not a cover of the Queen song of the same name). The lyrics through these tracks and all the rest are as dumb as a box of rocks, but Peter de Wint's vocals make their actual content unimportant. He hadn't made them quite as powerful in previous albums, but in Sharpshooter he delivers his best performance yet, with a grit-filled vibrato rising smoothly to screams in the upper register. Metal Knives has a catchy chorus melody but sounds like it was recorded somewhere else; de Wint's vocals are mixed differently, and the guitars are just off from each other to make one think that they recorded it in a single session. Oddly enough, the lack of studio tightness actually makes this song sound better than it normally would, as the thudding bass/drum combo pushes it faster and faster. At that point it might occur to the listener that this is a better live band than in the studio, and it would be great to hear them in their element.

No problem -- they deliver precisely that on the next two tracks, and those are some of the best tracks on the album, especially Motorcycles, their ode to the gentlemen in leather and chains who originally inspired the look of so many metalheads. The production rivals their studio effort (OK, that's not very hard to do), and in the background you can hear the crowd going nuts. Considering that the two songs they're recording live are little-known demos from their earlier days, that must have been one hell of a show. The last one, Sound of War, is still good, but it's not as good a melody as the previous tracks and feels tacked-on after the all-out insanity of the live tracks. It, too, appears to have a different production, making one think that it was indeed tacked on, perhaps by their record company to fill out the album. If I was them I'd probably have stuck it in before Motorcycles.

While Sharpshooter will never make classic status, it certainly shouldn't be overlooked by anyone who enjoys old-school speed metal. Energetic, spirited, and ultimately endearing, this album delivers the same low-fi thrill that the band undoubtably did for anyone lucky enough to see them live so many years ago.

Killing Songs :
Killer Queen, Metal Knives, Motorcycles, Crossfire
Andy quoted 78 / 100
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