Hellish Crossfire from Nuremberg stirred the thrash underground with their debut from 2006, and that is just one good reason to re-release this great album. Guitarist Iron Incubus gives some insight into the debut’s significance for Hellish Crossfire: “'Slaves Of The Burning Pentagram' was our first album ever. Back when we started Hellish Crossfire we had never thought we would ever record a full-length album in a professional studio. In the early days it was all just about jamming, writing some songs, playing some shows… we didn’t really have some sort of ‘master plan’, things just developed the way they did... However, it was really special for us to have an album out, especially as three of us four had never before recorded anything in a professional environment."
Back in 2006, reviewers were totally enthusiastic about “Slaves Of The Burning Pentagram“, one calling it a “bloody great old school thrash inferno“, one describing the album as raw, brutal 80’s thrash/speed with some black and death metal elements. That’s a good description, isn’t it? “Yeah, definitely! But Hellish Crossfire cannot simply be limited to the thrash or speed metal scene. There are many more facets to be unveiled! I think that because we’re not just trying to copy the old idols but heading for a fresher approach, we managed to come up with a more charismatic and individual sound than all those copycats around in that so-called ‘retro’-scene. Of course, the basis of our sound is raw thrash metal, but in the end we are free to add any kind of idea which suits the character of a song, regardless if it is doom, heavy, speed, death, black or whatever…”
Having set out to be a real underground band, the glowing reactions to "Slaves Of The Burning Pentagram" came as a surprise: “We were damn proud of the record, but we never even dared to think that the response would be so amazing: The LP version by I Hate was limited to 500 copies, which we thought was enough back then. But just a few months later it was already sold out! We decided to put out a CD version as well, for all those who had missed the LP and were still asking for it. This album simply put the name Hellish Crossfire on the map of the thrash metal underground.”
Now, how about the recording process? The internet has it that the album was recorded in a strictly analogue way, but this turns out to be a myth: „No, we didn’t record analogue. The album may sound as if recorded analogue, but that’s because our producer Patrick W. Engel had the knowledge, the skill, and the equipment to create an old-fashioned sound even with modern technologies. It was an awesome moment to listen to the songs recorded in a proper way as before we had only known the tracks from playing them during our rehearsals. Patrick W. Engel managed to capture that ‘live’ feeling quite authentically, I think, and he definitely got the best out of us without ever telling us how we should do this or that etc. We started by recording drums and pilot rhythm guitar tracks, after that we added additional rhythm and solo guitars. Finally we laid down the bass guitar lines, the vocals, and created a few samples. We felt quite comfortable at Rape Of Harmonies, with a lot of drinking during those recording days, plus some fire desecration at the end of our stay, ahem…!” Before the album was first released, five of the eight songs came out as a demo in 2005, which, collectors be prepared, bears the same title as the album. This demo featured a rough mix of the first five songs recorded at Rape Of Harmonies. Thanks to their “Unholy Tyranny” demo tape from 2004, Hellish Crossfire had received an offer from Steelfire Invasion Records. This very small and rather obscure Dutch label had wanted to put out a mini LP, yet at first, things were not going the way they were meant to: “It turned out that Steelfire Invasion were going to shut down, so we were forced to look for other labels. That is the reason why the demo / promo cassette was spread in a very, very limited quantity. There was not too much information on the tape, just our old logo, a track list, the line-up and a band contact, to make clear that it was just about the music and nothing else!”
Hellish Crossfire then got in touch with I Hate Records from Sweden, who asked for a full-length record instead of a mini LP, which is why the band returned to the studio to record two more tracks (`Eternal Tyranny` and `Claw Of The Reaper`). As mentioned above, the album sold out quickly, but the demand for “Slaves Of The Burning Pentagram” is still there: “At our shows, people kept asking us about ‘Slaves…’ and we always had to tell them that it was sold out. The fist editions on LP and CD are now being sold at horrible prices, so we really wanted our newer fans to be able to get hold of our debut without spending too much money on it… that is why we decided to initiate this re-release!”
The new CD edition for High Roller Records will come with some minor changes, but nothing that could make anyone feel ripped off: “Well, right from the start we just wanted to do a re-release which comes close to the original release, which means it would come without any bonus tracks etc. We think that including bonus tracks would be a ‘fist in the face’ of those fans who already purchased the original. However, nowadays we aren’t too satisfied with the layout anymore. There will be some minor changes made, nothing too special, but this way it will also be easier to distinguish the re-release from the original.”
The ties between High Roller and Hellish Crossfire are quite close, so it wasn’t just by chance that Hellish Crossfire got in touch: “It was our long-time comrade Melle from High Roller who was our contact concerning the re-release. In the past, Melle has contributed some samples and fanatic screams to our albums, and he also delivered some lyrics for Hellish Crossfire songs. He got us a fair offer for the re-release, so it seemed cool to go for it!”
After having talked a lot about the album, let’s clarify another myth: Is it true that the band was named after the debut album by Iron Angel, or are there other reasons for the name? Iron Incubus answers this question with a riddle that should not be too hard to solve for most of you: “Of course there is this more than obvious link to Iron Angel in our band name, and we all think that Iron Angel was one hell of a great Teutonic Speed Metal group, of course! However, our band’s name originally was inspired by some lyrics of a pretty well-known German black/thrash group. So the Iron Angel link actually came after that…”
If it has never been about Iron Angel that much, what other bands are most influential and important for the sound of Hellish Crossfire?
“Back in the past I used to answer that question with a huuuge list of bands, but let’s keep it short and say that anything we’re hooked on in between heavy, doom, speed, thrash, black or death metal inspires us. Of course, as we are a German band playing raw, fast and aggressive music, the old Teutonic speed / thrash scene with acts such as Sodom, Violent Force, Destruction and the likes is quite a big influence to us. But there are tons of other influences, and there’s a lot more to be discovered in Hellish Crossfire than just plain ‘thrash metal the Teutonic way’…!”