ABIGHOR, The Bloody Cross (1989, demo)

The skull:
The best thing about covers like this is knowing that someone had to actually use scissors and glue to make it. Start with a picture of a volcanic eruption, perhaps from a National Geographic back issue, slap on a skull from an olde-tyme anatomy book, and finally paste on a gilt and bejeweled censer, to make some kind of point about the church, or something? It’s a metaphorically bloody cross, you see. The technology to make the cross appear literally bloody just didn’t exist in Abighor’s local library in 1989.

The music:
I am only slightly ashamed to admit that I own not one, but two versions of Abighor’s sole full-length release, 1994’s Anticlockwise. That album is a lesser entry in the mid-90s Italian prog/power explosion, reminding me of early Time Machine, only not as good. And, so armed with what amounts to an unreasonable degree of familiarity with this band, I thought I had a good idea of what I’d be getting with The Bloody Cross. What I got, though, was speed metal with only the vaguest intimations of progressive inclinations: more Exciter than Fates Warning, although they do occasionally stretch out a little even on this early effort. Amateur playing and production make this a challenging listen at times, but the energy and aggression are welcome, and while the midtempo Queensryche worship of Anticlockwise is perfectly fine for what it is, maybe if Abighor had stuck to their guns and expanded on the speedy, almost thrashy sound they have here, they might have ended up at something a bit more interesting in the end. If nothing else, the highly accented vocals of Giancarlo Mattei work better in this less controlled setting than they do in the more polished prog metal of the band’s later work. His John Cyriis scream fits better when the band is nearly going off the rails, but set against the too-serious keyboard metal of Anticlockwise he comes off as just another Italian warbler with more range than sense. The Bloody Cross is far from classic, but as context for the band’s history and the larger Italian metal scene, it’s a neat artifact.
— Friar Johnsen