II by Dead Cross

Release date: October 28, 2022
Label: Ipecac Recordings

Dead Cross is back with their second release simply entitled II. It is an experimental blender of extreme music such as hardcore, punk and various types of metal.  The band features well-known musicians Mike Patton (vocals from Faith No More, Mr.Bungle), Dave Lombardo (drums from Slayer), Justin Pearson (bass from Swing Kids, The Locust) and Michael Crain (guitar from Retox).

The personal real-life turmoil the band experienced during the recording of the album transferred and is quite palpable throughout this very raw-sounding album. Lead singer Mike Patton was dealing with agoraphobia and Crain dealt with a sudden cancer diagnosis. So the visceral emotion felt on II is coming from a very real place. The band’s guitarist Crain said: “Words can’t even begin to describe how much this album means to me. It’s birthed of pain and uncertainty…the slow, excruciatingly painful, and nauseating recovery from cancer treatments were the catalyst for every riff and note on this album.* Patton commented on making this record with Crain, “he was intent on doing it. It was his therapy, in a way. And it healed him — it really did…So, it was inspirational and courageous and just kind of incredible. Hopefully, you can hear that in the music.* You certainly can, the frantic, all-in vibe is present throughout II.

I found this album to be more focused with stronger composition compared to Dead Cross’ self-titled release. Granted, as focused as a highly experimental, creative bombast can be. The tracks are longer with most reaching more than 3 minutes, whereas the debut had only 2 tracks that reached that time. That said, the tracks sure don’t feel longer. There is curiously no silence at the end of the tracks, so the album becomes an uninterrupted chaotic slugfest. There are many mid-track breakdown/tempo changes on II and they are some of the most interesting moments on the album. The band’s ability to instantly segue between sonic extremes creates some serious magical ear candy for the listener. For example, the searing-paced ‘Nightclub Canary’ cuts into some atmospheric, surfy riffage for a few bars allowing the track to build into a dramatic ending with one of Patton’s best screams ever – seriously – goosebumps.

As you may expect from an album with Mr. Patton, the vocals come at you from all over the sonic spectrum. He brings so many vocal styles with diverse and inventive deliveries. The lyrical sparring with Justin Pearson creates jarring, punky angst throughout II.  There is some exceptional interplay between the two on the very Mr. Bunglesque ‘Strong and Wrong’ and sulky stomping ‘Love Without Love’.  The back and forth of different vocals styles piles onto the chaotic fervor of many tracks.

While the aggressive onslaught of sound is unabating and the muscular riffs may be expected on II, I also found Crain’s riffs to be quite melodic and catchy. ‘Animal Espionage’ showcases this guitar duality with unsettling sharp biting passages and chugging rhythmic riffs that contrast beautifully as they crash against each other in the mix. The album is anchored by Lombardo’s steadfast drumming. Dave propels the songs with stunning speed, creative flair and vigorous energy that few drummers can provide. Lombardo is all killer, no filler once again.

The lyrics are equally representative of the tumultuous times that the album was written. With ‘Reign of Error’ spitting venom on the political struggle within the U.S. “Who is the problem?/ We are the problem. / …We are a factory of turds, noxious gases, empty words. / We speak, we leak like a building covered in rust. /…It’s us/ Welcome to the reign of error we are sugar peddlers. / Get the fucker out.” And the dark eerie vocal embellishment for ‘It’s Us’ is something out of a Sci-Fi Thriller.  The band also takes a moment to tip the hat to Mr.Chi Pig (Ken Chinn) of SNFU who passed away in 2020 in the track ‘Ants and Dragons’: “One, two, SNFU/ Chi Pig/ It doesn’t matter how you sing/  It doesn’t matter how hard you scream/Mr. Chi Pig”. This album will earn its parental advisory sticker genuinely.

When four musicians of this calibre of creativity and talent get together you never know what the result could be. But wow, Dead Cross II impresses. It is a powerful, no holds barred sonic rumble, that in spite of its monstrous, almost combative ferocity, still manages some gratifying melody and intriguing experimentation. Sometimes work born from strife reaches the deepest levels of honesty and emotion, I believe II absolutely does this.

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