Album Review: Left Cross - Upon Desecrated Altars
Reviewed by Sam Jones
There’s been a lot of buzz going round lately regarding Left Cross, the US based death metal act from Richmond, Virginia, who have returned after a slumber between albums to release their sophomore full length record: Upon Desecrated Altars. Formed in 2014, the band got to a gradual start with a trilogy of EPs: 2015’s Infernal Assault, and 2016’s Servants Of Death and Hell Is Hell. The following year saw their first full length work, Chaos Ascension, which was met with rave reviews and great acclaim. But since then, the band went quiet but soon released their 2020 EP Prophecy Of Conquest, a 2022 Demo, before finally unveiling plans to record and release their second album whereupon is at our fingertips. This record has been getting a lot of marketing and advertising online, so let’s see what precisely Left Cross have to offer.
Hurling is right into the thick of battle, Left Cross immerse us within their soundscape with a brief, but effective introduction that sees us submerged in war whilst ambient samples slowly build and build before the onslaught truly begins. Granted, it isn’t long since the album isn’t intending on sticking around for long but it’s enough to pique our attention. When the band really rip into their main material, it’s a grimy, crust-filled guitar attack that’s forming the backbone of the band’s performance. Listening to the riffs is less picking out individual notes or chords, but rather being subjected to a massive cacophony that has no problem utterly enveloping you. From the riffs to the basslines, Left Cross craft a soundscape that’s fundamentally total and is completely without mercy. I must however give credit here for their visceral attack, grand and consuming though it is, is not detrimental to the senses and therefore does not weight too greatly on our shoulders. As a result, Upon Desecrated Altars feels like a reanimated corpse we can support, for its dirt isn’t so compact and dense that we can’t appreciate it. The record is not a burden, which renders the experience easier to digest and reflect on.
The drums here are following the same approach too. We’re bombarded by one blast after another, and when we’re not, we’re given huge flurries of bass drumming that only amplify the bass guitar’s input. In addition, the blast beats aren’t coming at us with a constant rapidity either; there are instances where the blast beats will be interrupted by more methodical drum fills or another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it beat before diving back into the blast beat. It isn’t a blast beat marathon and the record does benefit from such; the way this record has been mixed to showcase this filthy aesthetic would not do to have blast beats constantly beaming at us. Relaxing the performance now and again enables the dirt and disgust of the band’s soundscape to punch through with greater ease; you don’t want to have something interfering with your ability to project power.
When we usually make note of a band’s vocals performance, it’s often to acknowledge individual performance. Moreover, the vocal delivery applies to this record is absolutely spot on and thoroughly completes the believability this record purports. It’s another degree of immersion the band impart upon us and why their vocals feel so menacing. The actual delivery itself has a guttural, coarse aesthetic that, while not moving too far in any one direction, knows where it is and how to project its vocal tones to establish itself as a firm, immovable force in the band’s arsenal. But there are times where the vocal tone does rise to unleash more primal screams, albeit not too often to put the audience at risk of predicting their cues, and these utterances help the record assume the primeval, caveman style the band were evidently vying for.
While the band’s performance may couple together at nearly all times throughout this record, the band do allow things to settle enough for us to recognise the riffs aren’t merely spamming the strumming. There’s at least one instance in every song herein whereby the songwriting will slow down a touch, and really let us absorb the chunkier, refined riffs that hit us just as hard as their slicing assault. This is death metal at its leanest wherein you’ve got the malicious, visceral nature Left Cross are more apt to demonstrate, but then there’s the beefier and dense variation on their sound that only hits us perhaps harder because the band have made it almost expected that we’ll anticipate the ripping side to their soundscape first. Considering it’s their first album in six years, it’s impressive to see how they’ve kept their work nice and concise with Upon Desecrated Altars barely surpassing a half hour in length. That implies tracks that don’t go on for too long, and a quick inspection would vindicate that idea; as a result, Left Cross could do more with their time but simply choose not to, condensing their songwriting into an easily accessible, digestible performance that has the best of both worlds, and none of the fat.
In conclusion, Left Cross have returned with a record that’s as imposing as it is fast. With no hint of a slower piece in sight, the band have ensured their arsenal is fully weaponised to deploy from the opening seconds. The introduction to this album holds no lie; Upon Desecrated Altars is a ferocious and snarling experience that holds you by the throat and only tightens its grip as it moves from track to track. Riffs don’t flow as much as they move with massive weight behind them, they feel engorged with tonnes of payload as they traverse the record to your senses with no regard for your feelings or wellbeing. I can see why this album was receiving so much attention and marketing; it’s filthy death metal distilled to its purest form wherein there’s nothing unnecessary thrown in that doesn’t comply to what Left Cross perceive as the ideal sound they can muster. A shredding album that will leave you in pieces by the end, yet engrossing in its straightforward dreams of devastation.