Southern Cross - Down Below

9 songs
50:43 minutes
***** ***


I could cry sometimes when I see how some record labels sign anything that barely can hold a guitar while truly talented bands seem to have no chance whatsoever finding a company willing to publish their music. Which brings us to Southern Cross, a bizarrely named band considering that they come from such a Northern country like Canada. The Quebec quintet started in the year 2000, released their debut Rise Above in 2006, and are now back with their second longplayer Down Below. The professional packaging should get potential listeners eager to risk an ear, and they won’t be disappointed. The CD starts with the nearly nine minute long Weak And Sober, displaying right away the French Canadians’ versatility. Their progressive power metal is aiming for maximum effect by contrasting the vocalist’s clear yet powerful voice with the heavy guitar riffs that flirt sometimes with the thrash metal genre. Yet they still find some room to add some jazzy parts that fit in perfectly with their intelligent songwriting. On Thirteen for which they made a video clip Southern Cross can be heard from their catchier side that works just as well. The songs are mostly longer than five minutes, only the ballad The Pawn lies below the three minute border, preventing it to overstay its welcome.

You might compare Southern Cross’s sound to bands like Pain Of Salvation, Evergrey and Dream Theater, but the band’s superior songwriting skills allow them to stand their on their own. Unlike many prog bands who neglect concise structures in favour of showcasing their skills, or countless power metal bands that drift into too shallow melodic metal territories, Southern Cross always find the right balance between melodies and heaviness. Did I mention that the excellent production makes it nearly impossible to believe that Down Below is a self-produced record? Fans of well done power metal have no excuse not to check out this great and still criminally underrated band from Quebec. Let’s hope Southern Cross will soon reap the rewards that they deserve.

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