"Next Chapter" (Verikauha Records; 2003)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Hailing from Finland, Maple Cross got started in the early '90s and made one self-financed album that received a good deal of positive press, but sort of disintegrated due to lack of label interest. During Summer 2001, Maple Cross vocalist Marco R.J. decided to give the music biz another go and resurrect the Maple Cross name. And, from the proceedings that resulted in "Next Chapter," I'm left wondering why one major label or another hasn't already given Maple Cross a proper shot at a musical career.

Maple Cross play an aggressive form of metal that sounds like a mix of Entombed with a very modern edge. While I could say that Maple Cross' "Next Chapter" sounds like Entombed playing nu-metal covers one might get the idea that Maple Cross sound more American than European - but that's not the case. Maple Cross' musical style and delivery are definitely rooted in the Scandinavian death metal style, but sonically bears little resemblances to it.

"Next Chapter" contains 11 tracks of consistent and hard rocking metallic tunes. Maple Cross doesn't stray too far from "their" sound as most of the songs sound as though they were cut from the same cloth. But the songs don't lack for intensity or variation within the limited source material. And to top it off each song is remarkably catchy and memorable. Most of the songs are taut rockers (most tracks come in under three and a half minutes) and this adds explosive power to the song's already intense riffing and anger-fuled subject matter.

Maple Cross employ the basic vocal, two guitar, one bass, one drum set-up, but each musician plies his trade with solid effort. And because of this flashy, show-off wanking is not needed on "Next Chapter." "Next Chapter" is close to being a straight-forward musical onslaught (which in and of itself isn't a bad thing), but most tracks differentiate themselves from each other so that a casual first listen reveals plenty of nuances in each song. The listener will actually anticipate hearing the album additional times while anticipating each song.

The vocals are mostly shouted, but Marco R.J. shows impressive range and utilizes his voice like a well-honed instrument of Armageddon. The clean vocals are a lacking in smoothness, but in the end this is actually a good thing because it avoids easy comparison to all the other bands that are now adding super-clean vocals to their growls.

"Next Chapter" is a fine effort and the band is worth hearing by a large contingent of metal fans.

"Next Chapter" was produced by Maple Cross.

Maple Cross is Marco R.J. on vocals, Sami on guitar, Late TT on guitar, Ollari on bass, and Aki on drums.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2003 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.