4th August 2017 – Ipecac Records
01. Seizure and Desist
03. Obedience School
05. Bela Lugosi’s Dead
06. Divine Filth
07. Grave Slave
08. The Future Has Been Cancelled
09. Gag Reflex
10. Church of the Motherfuckers
Some phrases will instantly generate excitement. One of those phrases, especially in this house, is “vocals by Mike Patton”. Reports of a new project featuring the Faith No More frontman is enough to have me anxiously waiting with my face pushed against an imaginary window, scanning the allegorical street for the digital postman to deliver the files to my hypothetical door. I passed the time contemplating how the mp3 era has really fucked with that metaphor for anticipation, and now we have the eponymous debut album from Dead Cross added to the very considerable pile of projects with which Patton is associated.
However, although his presence is naturally attention grabbing, it is worth pointing out that he was the final piece to be added to the Dead Cross puzzle, with the other members originally convening and working with another singer. Guitarist Mike Crain and bassist Justin Pearson have previously been seen in action, variously in Retox, The Locust and…oh, and the guy behind the kit is a certain Mr Dave Lombardo. Maybe a couple of you will recognise the name. So, even before Mike joined the ranks, the trajectory Dead Cross would take was set, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out it would be a furiously high-velocity white knuckle ride, underpinned by an onslaught of double-kick.
Nevertheless, with such an instantly recognisable vocalist out front and centre, its virtually impossible to listen to Dead Cross without placing it in the context of Patton’s considerable canon of works. Effectively, it falls somewhere between a more feral Tomahawk and what Fantômas might sound like if they wrote songs with traditional structures instead of spasmodic freakouts. Dead Cross are an unapologetically no-frills, no-nonsense affair; llooking closer to home for those unswayed by the names of these luminaries, fans of Heck and The Colour Line will almost certainly find something to enjoy here.
Dead Cross don’t hang about, either. Ripping through ten tracks in under half an hour, the average length of a song is in the region of 150 seconds. Even a surprise cover of the Bauhaus goth anthem “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” is distilled from the near ten minute duration of the original to its two minute essence. The vibe of this cover, probably more by coincidence than anything else, also skirts remarkably close to that of the “Come To Daddy” cover from the Patton/The Dillinger Escape Plan collaboration.
As swift and effective as a baseball bat to the sternum, Dead Cross may be the product of some supremely experienced hands, but it retains all the vitality and fury of a group of youngsters blowing off their righteous angst. With American politics finding itself in such a disastrous state, we should probably expect to see more and more musicians resorting to the equivalent of primal scream therapy.
Naturally, the standard of songs remains high throughout Dead Cross, but noteworthy highlights are opener “Seizure and Desist“, carrying some classic Patton melodies, the jagged grind of “Shillelagh” and lead single “Grave Slave”. The tempo only meaningfully drops on “Gag Reflex”, and it’s verses wouldn’t sound out of place on a Faith No More release.
The band are apparently writing more new material in order to have enough songs to play a live set of meaningful length, and considering the breakneck pace with which the band coalesced, we suspect this eponymous debut won’t be the only Dead Cross release for long. But already, there is plenty of evidence that they will delight the standing army of Patton fanatics and maybe draw a few more in to the fold. Dead Cross fuse experimental elements to a hardcore punk skeleton as effortlessly as only musicians of this calibre can manage, and the results are both distinctive and intoxicating.