Scatterbrained antics beget unconventional heaviness.
Life is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you’ll get according to Forrest Gump, and if the body of work associated with vocalist and freethinker Mike Patton is any indication, the same holds true for composing new music. Whether it be the wildly out there genre-splicing auditory feats of Mr. Bungle or the somewhat more accessible experimentation of Faith No More, the guy just has a knack for bucking trends and occasionally setting a few of them. But what is sometimes overlooked is that his earliest foray into the work of metal was a rather dark yet humorously random take on mid-80s thrash metal via the former aforementioned fold in “The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny,” best described as the Evil Dead 2 to Slayer’s traditional horrific sonic stylings. In like fashion, Patton’s more recently codified project and more punk-infused super group Dead Cross has its fair share of thrash tendencies, and their long awaited sophomore LP simply dubbed “II” can boast the same influences, among many others.
As per his own words in a Rolling Stone interview regarding their 2017 debut, Patton and company are more in the business of having fun rather than proving themselves a bunch of tough guys making a point, but this by no means suggests that Dead Cross is a project that pulls its punches in the aggression department. Crossover heavy-hitters like Cryptic Slaughter, D.R.I., and Carnivore are among many established names to which this outfit’s brand of crunchy, jagged-edged handiwork can be aptly compared. Furthermore, the late 2019 advanced cancer diagnosis of guitarist Michael Crain and subsequent chemo-treatments coinciding with the composition and recording sessions that resulted in this second studio venture contributed greatly to its beastly and sincere character. Combined with the dank and glassy bass work of Justin Pearson and the iconic ruckus behind the kit of former Slayer and current Testament, Suicidal Tendencies and Mr. Bungle drummer Dave Lombardo, the cacophony of seemingly incongruent stylistic influences are merged and distilled into something that is as forbidding as it is happy-go-lucky.
Though the resulting music that rounds out this 9 chapter book of frenetic anthems borders on scatterbrained, it achieves a truly unique synchronicity between its raw production and eclectic songwriting approach that results in something that is both unified and fairly accessible. The opening haymaker “Love Without Love” leans in heavy on the hardcore influences and vacillates between a slow, doom-like crawl and fits of blasting explosions, creating a sense of dissonant tension that plays perfectly to Patton’s man-of-a-thousand voices approach to vocals. Indeed, even more frenzied and up tempo crushers like “Heart Reformer” and the jolting thrasher “Nightclub Canary” see Mike sound like 5 or 6 different vocalists within the span of a few minutes, while the rest of the band showcases their ability to abruptly shift between chaotic metal riff mayhem and intermitted bits of subdued, jazzy balladry seamlessly. Arguably the most outlandish vocal moment heard out of this fold’s versatile front man is that of “Animal Espionage”, which somehow manages to pull off blending his otherworldly ravings with a template resting somewhere between raw metallic vileness and 60s jangle pop.
While it’s pretty easy to become fixated on Patton’s highly flamboyant vocal performance, the contributions of the rest of the fold are equally as off the hook. For a man who was soldiering through a grueling regiment of chemo treatments when this album was being tracked, Mike Crain truly brings his A-game both as a riff master and canvass painted, bringing a brilliant blend of biting thrash work and dissonant layering on drawn out, through-composed monster tracks “Imposter Syndrome” and “Ants And Dragons” that frequently wander outside the bounds of standard tonality. Likewise, the sludgy distorted bass work that Pearson brings to key parts of bizarre collages of sound dubbed “Strong And Wrong” and previously noted opener “Love Without Love” sound strongly reminiscent of the dearly departed Peter Steele. And one would be remiss to neglect noting the fast and furious drum display that Lombardo brings to thrash-happy crushers “Reign Of Error” and extended pummel-happy session “Christian Missile Crisis”, which also features an impressive lead vocal display out of Pearson, reminding heavily of the glory days of early 80s hardcore via Discharge and English Dogs.
It may not be for everyone, it may turn the ears of those whom lack a penchant for fuzz-steeped guitars and gnarly sonic contours, but there is a level of uniqueness that is accomplished here that even the staunchest of detractors cannot deny. The album’s open-ended title should clue any prospective newcomer to this band that they are in the business of keeping their options open, and those who have even a basic familiarity with the history of either Mr. Bungle or Faith No More should be aptly prepared for the rollercoaster ride that goes with Mike Patton being in the front car. But for how avant-garde the auditory twists and turns may become, and no matter how seemingly random of a voice character is delivering the humorously concocted lyrics, there is a logic to it all that keeps the whole thing together and should play quite well to those who enjoy the rawer side of the crossover spectrum.
Order the “II” album HERE,
Released By: Ipecac Recordings
Release Date: October 28th, 2022
- Mike Patton / Vocals
- Dave Lombardo / Drums
- Michael Crain / Guitars
- Justin Pearson / Bass
“II” track listing:
1. Love Without Love
2. Animal Espionage
3. Heart Reformer
4. Strong And Wrong
5. Ants And Dragons
6. Nightclub Canary
7. Christian Missile Crisis
8. Reign Of Error
9. Imposter Syndrome
Adversity and ingenuity mark the strongest influences as outside-the-box thinkers and super group Dead Cross unleash their sophomore LP, once more stretching the bounds of where accessibility ends and otherworldly mayhem begins