Reviewed By Simon Milburn
Published 22 August, 2017
Dead Cross is a band that had my attention as soon as I heard that Dave Lombardo was associated with it. He of legendary Slayer fame (as well as Grip Inc. and Philm) can do no wrong. Formed initially in late 2015, Dead Cross, who were rounded out by three members of Retox in vocalist Gabe Serbian, guitarist Mike Crain and bassist Justin Pearson would record their debut album with Serbian and release an advance track (“We'll Sleep When They're Dead”) in March 2016.
By the end of the year though, Serbian would be replaced by Mike Patton and the vocals were not only re-recorded, but re-written as well. Originally a hardcore punk cross heavy metal group, I think it’s safe to say with Patton joining the fold that Dead Cross’ self titled debut isn’t quite that. It is many things, just not that in entirely.
If one thing is for certain, it’s the fact that it’s never certain what Mike Patton’s next project will be, or who will be involved and what it will sound like. Patton’s musical mission really seems to be about playing in as many bands with as many different people exploring as many different musical styles possible. That’s one hell of a way to leave your mark on the musical world when you finally leave this mortal coil. But when you look at the rather lengthy list of bands and performers that Patton has been associated with, regardless of your opinion of the guy, it is pretty damned impressive. Dead Cross is another notch on his belt.
Dead Cross just doesn’t feel punk from front to back, not that this is a bad thing. In fact, truth be told the punk-est (is that even a word??) thing about the album is the sub 28 minute running time. There is no doubt that there’s plenty of energy and aggression on offer throughout so I guess that punk’s it up a bit too. It feels a little more “noise” oriented at times rather than punk sounding. I don’t know, I’m not a punk authority. I do know, though, that it’s a solid first release from the group. I’ve little doubt that the various textures that Patton’s voice brings to Dead Cross is a big reason for the weaving and dodging the album does from the hardcore punk label.
Take “Obedience School” for example. It launches out of the blocks with blind fury – frantic drums, cutting guitars and then over that, Patton at times screams completely unhinged, and then turns around and sings as only he can. The latter half of the song in particular eases off the gas pedal and Patton delivers an at times almost spoken performance over haunting, deep, background vocal runs that are reminiscent of Patton’s work in the excellent collaboration track between Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E “Another Body Murdered” from the Judgement Night soundtrack. The hauntingly excellent “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and the killer, eclectic finale “Church of the Motherfuckers” are further examples of this album being more than just a hardcore punk album.
What makes this album work on so many levels is the direct contrast between the simplicity of the furious riffs and styles from Crain and Pearson mixed with the stellar performance from drummer extraordinaire Lombardo and the often unhinged and total unpredictable delivery from vocal maestro Patton. There are so many elements to each of their performances that at times the songs can feel like each individual performer is pulling in opposite directions from the others. Other times, it’s clear they are completely on the same page and they are working like a well oiled machine. Dead Cross’ debut is the perfect example of the whole being far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s chaos, discordance, dissonance, and disorder. Absolutely killer!