REVIEW: Does Crossfaith 'WIPEOUT' With Their Western-Friendly EP?

If you're a fan of Crossfaith, then you know that their progress isn't always linear when it comes to evolving their sound. Some releases are wildly engaging and experimental, while others compromise the integrity of the band's signature sound for the sake of trying new things. WIPEOUT falls into the latter category, and whether or not you're accepting of that will determine how much you enjoy this EP. All in all, Crossfaith's latest effort is a clean, energetic effort that expands on their core sound, even if it does come at the cost of predictability.

1. Wipeout
2. Inside the Flames
3. Vermillion Gold

Given its digestible, western-friendly sound (it's worth noting that all 3 songs were recorded overseas), WIPEOUT definitely feels like a safe bet. Crossfaith's powerful metalcore guitars and thunderous drums have been toned down drastically, and the entire EP has a digital, almost compressed sound to it. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is a noticeable change nonetheless. The new sound reminds me of music by electronic rock artists, who differ from Crossfaith in that they (mostly) use technology in lieu of organic instruments to emulate a rock style. This results in a slicker, more condensed sound that is less of an assault on the ear than traditional rock and metal music. Additionally, instead of giving their rock "instruments" a definitively leading role in their songs, electronic rock artists often operate as pseudo-DJs by taking a 50/50 approach to mixing their rock and electronic sounds. As a result, they're often a few musical trends ahead of electronicore-influenced bands like Crossfaith (but still a few trends behind more mainstream EDM DJs).

Crossfaith seems to be converging on their own 50/50 metal-to-EDM ratio from the opposite side, and this is especially noticeable in the title track. "Wipeout" zips along at a rapid tempo, blending together barely-distinguishable guitars, wailing electronic sounds, and muted drums, to the point where it's hard to tell any of the instruments apart from each other. Vocalist Ken provides a healthy balance of rough, clean, and spoken vocals that stand out more than usual given the hyper-produced backing instrumentation. The song is as high-energy as it is digestible, and while it's definitely fun to listen to, longtime fans may miss the traditional heavy metal "punch" that has come to be associated with Crossfaith's music. Comparisons can definitely be drawn between "Wipeout" and electronic rock artists like Blue Stahli that have coined a similar sound. Take a listen and compare the two below, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Moving on to the B-sides, we find Crossfaith revisiting some of their sounds from their last album XENO on the track "Inside the Flames". The song has heavy verses with rough vocals that give way to a passionate (although somewhat clichéd) chorus with clean singing. I would have preferred if Crossfaith had invested more into the breakdown on this track. Its standard heavy metal chugging would've benefitted from some creative use of DJ Teru's electronic sounds (listen to the title track on the band's last EP FREEDOM for reference). Ultimately, "Inside the Flames" is a solid head-banger but nothing new for this band, and is a little too similar to past songs on XENO to really stand out.

"Vermillion Gold" is simultaneously the most exciting and most disappointing song on the EP. The electronicore sound that makes up the backbone of this track is a bit more of what Crossfaith fans are used to hearing, and the song is definitely fun to headbang to. The disappointment sets in when you get to the chorus and realize that this is essentially a J-Metal rendition of a Motionless in White song. The symphonic-leaning electronicore in the hook might not have been enough to tip some listeners off, but when it returns to back the clean vocals in the chorus, anyone familiar with Motionless in White will be immediately reminded of "Everybody Sells Cocaine". It's pretty obvious from there on out that this song was made to appeal to western listeners. That may seem fine for marketing purposes, but I think it will give the wrong impression. I can't help but worry that U.S. metal fans will hear this song, think to themselves "eh, this sounds like a Japanese Motionless in White", and move on. It will be a real shame if that happens, because Crossfaith's already-unique sound has a proven track record of resonating with western audiences: they've been successful in the UK for years, and U.S. metalheads who stumble across their music are almost always impressed. To be clear, I think "Vermillion Gold" is a decent song, but as a J-Metal fan I can't help but worry that this will give a less-than-optimal first impression to new listeners.

As a longtime fan of Crossfaith, I have a lot of mixed feelings about WIPEOUT. While I find "Inside the Flames" to be generally unremarkable and "Vermillion Gold" to be somewhat concerning, I do ultimately enjoy the direction the band took with the title track. At the end of the day, expanding musical styles to reach a wider audience is something that Crossfaith has proven that they can do quite well, and I believe they will be successful in a similar way with this EP. Hopefully they will continue to evolve out of this sound into something even more impactful and dynamic than before. They've done this in the past—the experimental and controversial album XENO gave way to the two fantastic EPs preceding WIPEOUT—and I have no reason to suspect they won't do it again. In the meantime, I suspect listeners will have a variety of opinions on WIPEOUT, both positive and negative. I definitely think the EP is at least worth a listen, so check it out at the links below and let me know what you think in the comments.

Listen to WIPEOUT on:
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