During A&GS’ first summer in business, right as we were gearing up to cover Mayhem Fest 2013 I had a band dropped in my lap. That band was BATTLECROSS who had just released their sophomore album War of Will and were busting heads and dropping jaws wide open from city to city on that tour. Several listens and one hilarious interview with guitarist Tony Asta later, I was 100% sold on the group. Having seen them live twice since (with another to follow next month!) and getting to know them as people too, I can say with no uncertainty that BATTLECROSS, like HAVOK are one of my favorites of the younger thrash metal generation, and one of the best bands in metal right now…PERIOD.
And oh, how The Metal Gods have smiled upon me. Newest album Rise to Power (August 21 on Metal Blade Records) has been in my possession for some time now, but I have been hoarding it all to myself…till today. I don’t know how many different ways I can stress how much you all need this record in your lives. From NWOBHM-influenced opener “Scars” and “Spoiled” to the stomp and groove of “Not your Slave” album number three truly finds BATTLECROSS in total mastery of their craft. Asta and fellow 6-string gunslinger Hiran Deraniyagala (also a funny interview!) weave web after web of ferocious riffs at a pace that would have Spider-Man gasping for air. Singer Kyle Gunther has never sounded more in command of the songs, both from a vocal and attitude standpoint. He simply owns every line.
Now, can we discuss the rhythm section? First up, bassist Don Slater brings a groove so heavy that most mere mortals are unworthy of even trying to pick it up, let alone carry it. His playing is seamless, yet right up there in the mix. His partner in crime and newest official member Alex Bent is nothing short of dizzying on the drums. These two should be hereafter known as Thunder and Lightning because that’s EXACTLY what they bring to these songs. You think I’m kidding? Listen to “The Climb” and you’ll see. When these five men hit the ignition switch there aren’t enough seatbelts and safety rails to hold you down. Gunther’s Death Metal growls on this and “Blood & Lies” reign supreme as well.
“Absence” definitely reminds me of the good old days of thrash, Bent beating the shit out of his kit while the band seems to break everything around them. “Bound By Fear” is one of the album’s best, the sonic equivalent of a wrecking ball demolishing a building quickly and without prejudice. And speaking of guitar greatness both “Despised” and “Shackles” have it in spades, with the former sounding very much like vintage EXODUS. Closing track and personal favorite “The Path” starts off with hauntingly beautiful acoustic guitars that quickly unfold into an all-out blitz attack on your fucking heads. The undocumented cases of whiplash will probably number in the thousands.
I have to congratulate my guys in BATTLECROSS. They have unleashed upon us something special, and put the rest of the thrash metal community on notice with Rise to Power. Third time’s a charm? You better believe it. Don, Alex, Kyle, Hiran and Tony? You boys better get ready. Something tells me we’re about to be living in the Year of the ‘Cross!!
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM