Air Raid - Across the Line

Air Raid Across the Line cover
Air Raid
Across the Line
High Roller Records
Man oh man! It’s always an enriching treat to witness a metal band’s rise from obscurity to excellence; such is the case with Gothenburg’s Air Raid, which at the end of September released its most flavourful and stellar album yet, “Across the Line”, on CD under the venerable High Roller Records, as well as Spiritual Beast in Japan. Featuring its third front man in as many full-lengths in Fredrik Werner (still active in Osukaru) and a new, flamboyant shred master in Magnus Mild, Air Raid has come a long way from its humble beginnings and “Danger Ahead” EP, which, while still respectable, failed to firmly establish the Swedes' as a serious traditional heavy metal contender.
This time around the quartet wastes no time flexing its muscle with ten masterfully crafted tracks totalling a little less than forty minutes. While past forays such as “Night of the Axe” and “Point of Impact” showed promise and hinted of Air Raid’s developing signature sound, “Across the Line” represents the culmination of its efforts as well as the rewarding (and oh-so-tasty) fruit of its labours.
The once choppy and rough around the edges guitar riffs are now polished to a fine shine and display a simultaneously compressed and fluid arrangement, such as on “Hold the Flame”, “Aiming for the Sky” and the Japanese edition bonus track and re-recorded version of “A Blade in the Dark” (whose battle-some and valorous vibes also close the rollicking and fun full-length debut, “Night of the Axe”; in comparison, it even sounds like it hails from another act altogether). This can evidently be attributed to hiring on Magnus Mild, whose lightning fast lead flourishes readily bring to mind Yngwie Malmsteen, albeit in a soulful and less clinical manner, and to a certain extent Johnny Touch’s axe prodigy, Jaime Whyte, who equally sky-rocketed his mates to the top on the Australians’ full-length debut, “Inner City Wolves”, released a month prior in August. Thus, each track is imbued with Mild’s stunning neo-classical flair, especially the short yet killer instrumental, “Entering the Zone Zero”, which augustly rests smack dab in the middle between the Widow (a.k.a. Sorrow Bequest) sounding Arctic queen dirge/sapphic ode “Cold as Ice” and the spiritedly swinging metal anthem “Hell and Back”, which by all accounts brings to mind Grim Reaper from classic NWOBHM days of yore thanks to Werner’s Steve Grimmett-like vocal delivery and inflections (the fact “Hell” makes up part of the title hasn’t escaped notice either!).
In fact, Werner’s composed mid-range tinged with the odd pitch variation grippingly does the tight musicianship justice is a similar virile and no-nonsense manner as Accept’s most recent arrival, Mark Tornillo; simply put, it maturely behoves Mild’s and fellow axe man Andreas Johansson’s riffing style and guitar tones. As well, the rhythm section comprised of bassist Robin Utbult and drummer David Hermansson – Air Raid’s founding members – commands a stronger presence all-around, notably on the invigorating number which is “Northern Light”, as it opens with a gregariously plump bass line and massive, pile driving drum beat before Werner gallantly intercedes with the following poignant verse:
“I’m living on the edge
Always on the run
Fighting day by day
The never ending road
Lies before my dream
I will never die
‘Cause I am in control!”
I won’t argue! Mild and Johansson equally dazzle with their stately post-chorus glimmering and virtuous guitar harmonies akin to coruscating diamonds or, for want of a better example, the shimmering, dancing lights of an aurora Borealis. That said, “Across the Line”, as a whole constitutes a veritable eruption of talent, which from now on compels me to mention Air Raid is the same reverential breath as Enforcer, Stallion, Steelwing and Striker to name a few. Objectively, “Cold As Ice” is somewhat of a weaker track as it lags a little in the shred department, while slightly overstaying its welcome, unlike the searing “Line of Danger”, with its excitable and torrid guitar intro following by a wicked undulating/quivering riff and Werner’s juiced up, liberating overtures: “You are the one/I see inside my mind/The chosen one/That makes me cross the line/Tonight’s the night/And we are ridin’ high/Through neon lights/From dusk ‘till day...”. That's another thing: the lyrics won’t win any Pulitzers but damn they’re chill! Simple yet heartfelt and convincing, the way it should be with balls-to-the-wall, fist-pumping goodness such as this.
Rest assured this high-powered Hornet jet never runs out of fuel but resolutely locks on to its target (you, me, the listener!) from the start before homing in with the ballistic and supersonic assurance of an AGM-65 Maverick (or any air launched missile of your choosing) in the form of twin arse kicking closers “Raid or Die” – complete with a tell-tale air raid siren of course! – and further “top gun” highlight “Black Dawn”, which excels all the more thanks to a super sonorous, ventilating guitar solo ushering in more of Werner’s sing-along divination, supported as it is on the chorus by felicitous gang vocals.
By all means, gift yourself with Air Raid’s “Across the Line”, while also checking out its earlier fare as tracing the band's enterprising rise is as much a glory to behold.