Album Review: Dead Cross – II

Album Review: Dead Cross - II
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

Dead Cross release their sophomore full-length a whole five years after their debut, a period of time in which guitarist Michael Crain battled and beat cancer. The world is a very different place in those intervening years and if ever an album encapsulated its moment in time, then II is a contender.

Where the debit was a more straightforward version of Hardcore Punk, its successor runs screaming into the experimental, incorporating such disparate elements as raw, low-fi recordings, jazz elements, dual vocal effects, regional sounds and more. But when a piece is the collective brainchild of those responsible for Mr Bungle, Fantômas, The Locusts and Retox – among others – you expect the journey through II’s nine tracks to be one of wonder and discovery.

The advanced first single, Reign of Error, isn’t really indicative of what you’ll find here. Its Slayer-like opening and fast, confrontational riffing is perhaps the most direct moment of II’s runtime. Chunky bridges and ripping guitars lend it an intensity that does rear its head throughout but is not the main purpose of the record.

Album Review: Dead Cross – II

The second half of the record tend toward the more hefty and somewhat more straightforward: Nightclub Canary lays down a simply effective riff; Christian Missile Crisis’ guitars grind away leading to a spiralling solo and the closing Imposter Syndrome is fast and furious and built around wailing guitars.

Even after saying that, Canary isn’t without its more eclectic moments; Missile Crisis reduces to a plodding, haunting outro and the finale drops into a creeping mid-section, until the whisper of “…it’s all gone quiet” brings II to an end.

Before you enter that final strait, you’ll have to negotiate the first five tracks; each a feast of ideas and experimentation. Love Without Love might open with dirty guitar and a black metal rawness to the recording, lending it an eerie atmospherebut, as it progresses, revealing dark whispered vocals and a frenzy of guitar and drums, it becomes a metonym for the rest of the record.

Animal Espionage continues this experimentation, introducing an eastern flavour to the music; Strong and Wrong might see an increase in tempo and fat riffs but the unmistakeable jazz elements, supplementing the maelstrom of insanity and screeching guitars, is enough to make you need a sit down.

Dead Cross haven’t abandoned the sound of the debut entirely, as Heart Remover features some of those aspects, yet does so as well as incorporating some downright eerie moments into the mix.

When the personnel of the band is Patton/ Crain / Pearson / Lombardo and you let them loose in a studio, you know the outcome is going to be unconventional to say the least. At no stage does II ever feel indulgent which, in less capable hands, it could as the creators here have been around the block enough times to know when enough is enough and less is more.

Special shout out needs to go to the state of the world at the moment as, without its continued inspirational insanity, II could well have been a very different record.

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