Mike Patton and Dave Lombardo collaborate with Michael Crain and Justin Pearson of Retox in bringing a volatile, short-tempered work of hardcore punk savagery.
In recent years Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer, Fantomas) appears to be making a return to the point of origin. Given his thrash metal past, the legendary drummer has recently appeared as a member of Suicidal Tendencies, performing in their last album World Gone Mad, and is currently also part of the Misfits. But that is not all. Alongside Michael Crain (Retox, Festival of Dead Deer), Justin Pearson (the Locust, Retox) and Gabe Serbian (the Locust, ex-Retox) he set out to form Dead Cross, a hardcore punk project of furious intentions. The band went into the studio, but shortly after the recording Serbian departed from Dead Cross, and Mike Patton (Faith No More, Fantomas, Tomahawk) came in as the replacement.
Given this cast, expectations are naturally on a high. Lombardo and Patton are very well known in the extreme and experimental music scenes, having produced some excellent albums with their respective acts and their previous collaborations. On the other hand, Retox is a relatively new and exciting hardcore group, but the Locust is a much more intriguing entity from Justin Pearson, combining elements of powerviolence, noise rock and grindcore beneath its hardcore guise. Needless to say that something weird and extreme is expected from Dead Cross debut.
Clocking in just under 30 minutes, Dead Cross produce a work that puts the pedal to the metal. Its progression is lightning fast, and its attitude always stays in your face. The record mainly stands in the hardcore realm, taking on old-school punk aspects in the expressive guitar riffs, without forgetting about the extra edge that a thrash metal injection can bring. It is a record that radiates with anger and hostility for the most part, with the projected angst coming in an average of two-minute doses. At times at a maniacal state, through the grandiose moments of “Seizure and Desist” to the explosive pace of “Idiopathic”, song after song the band digs up all this frustration and turns it into fury.
The two key aspects where the sound opens up and becomes more expressive and interesting is the drumming and vocal performance. On the one hand, Lombardo is being very inventive, no surprise there, within the context of the hardcore foundation, while on the other Patton is contributing a collage of different characters to narrate this horrifying story. Screams, growls, shrieks provide an animalistic stance and a primal force, in moments such as “The Future Has Been Cancelled”, with even a Celtic Frost-ian death grunt making an appearance in “Shillelagh”. Other moments, no matter how few and sparse, do display a more melodic and straightforward approach from Patton, projecting a different mindset that is equally twisted.
There are a few times when the aggression subsides, with the band slowing things down and exploring different concepts. Covering Bauhaus' “Bela Lugosi's Dead” turns the perspective towards more atmospheric routes, allowing the ambiance to creep up and craft an additional layer of darkness to surround the harsh structures. “Gag Reflex” adds a more expressive dimension of sonic experimentation, with effects applied to the elements of the mix with a more adventurous scope. Even more so is the case with “Church of the Motherfuckers” which dives into a tribalistic progression, with the guitars maintaining a textural background rather than the previous expressive hardcore riffs and phrases.
While Dead Cross is a very enjoyable album, which retains a strong connection with the hardcore scene and thrash metal ethics, given the personnel involved in this work, someone might expect something more extravagant and out there. That does not take away any of the quality of this record, its inhumane aggression, and dark overtures, but what is certain is that these four guys have the capability to dig even deeper and uncovering all that there is to explore in their sound.