Album Review: Dead Cross, Dead Cross

The term “supergroup” is thrown around a lot these days, though many of the bands adorned with this label don’t always live up to the hype. Dead Cross is not one of those bands.
Dead Cross is set to release their debut, eponymous album this Friday, August 4, 2017, as a joint release between labels Three One G, owned and operated by the band’s bassist, Justin Pearson, (The Locust, Retox), and Ipecac Recordings, owned and operated by the band’s bizarrely versatile vocalist, Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas). It’s a 28-minute banger of a hardcore album. Simply put, it’s a monstrously heavy and weird record, yet one that’s unpretentious and seemingly aware of its humble roots.
Dead Cross started in November, 2015, after a band called Philm featuring Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Fantômas) unexpectedly ended. Ross Robinson (At the Drive-In, Glassjaw, Slipknot), a renowned producer who was hip to Lombardo’s band-break-up-blues, was simultaneously conducting some recording sessions with Pearson and Michael Crain (Retox). With this perfect storm in place, things escalated rapidly; a band was formed, songs were recorded as they were simultaneously being written, and a debut live performance ensued less than a month later. Gabe Serbian (The Locust, Head Wound City) served as the band’s original vocalist, though stepped aside halfway through the recording process to be closer to his daughter. Patton, also a close friend and a former bandmate of Lombardo, enthusiastically accepted the band’s invitation to join as their new vocalist.
Justin Pearson gave a nod to his vocally inspired partner when we asked if there were any tracks on the record that stuck out to him the most. Here’s what he had to say:
“My favorite track on the album might be ‘Grave Slave’. I think Patton’s vocals, specifically his ‘witch voice’ rules and really makes this track for me.”
As soon as this track kicks in, you’ll likely know what Pearson is referencing. Patton fans will similarly rejoice in these spastically ferocious moments, accentuated with an abundance of deeply layered vocal harmonies and one of the most impressive tonal ranges in the business. Consistent with his unmistakable lyrical approach, Patton trudges his listeners through an onslaught of nightmarish imagery, pitch-black humor, and a disgusting amount of references to bodily fluid. Indeed, much of this album delivers a quintessential “Patton-esque” experience, though his performance maintains an impressive freshness throughout.
While the album demonstrates a limitless range in technical playing proficiency, there’s not a lot of over-thinking it here. Like many of Robinson’s past involvements, the album’s production is original, raw, and largely driven by visceral, gut-instinct. When asked what it was like working with Robinson, Justin Pearson told us the following:
“Working with Ross is rad. He is a brilliant man. But when I say that, I don’t just mean as far as him being a producer or even things pertaining to music. But just as a human, and his outlook on life, and more specifically his use of energy from the human spirit. That might seem a little new age-ish, but fuck it. The dude is on a whole other level with certain things in life.”
As you listen to the record, you may very well find yourself chuckling one moment at a bizarre lyrical phrase or a squirrely guitar riff, and then contemplate starting a riot the next. This is accomplished in a surprisingly linear fashion, especially considering the band’s roster. You aren’t going to hear a lot of genre shifting or even too many unusual time signature changes (do not approach this record expecting Mr. Bungle). Instead, you will hear a matured repertoire of finely crafted hardcore riffs between Pearson and Crain, some bone rattling blast beats and drum shredding by Lombardo, and one of the most haunting vocal performances by Patton to date.
This is also one of the most heretically charged albums on which Patton has ever performed. Songs like “Divine Filth,” featuring a delightfully macabre duet of sorts between Patton and Crain, and “Church of the Motherfuckers,” the album’s epic finale, make it pretty clear this album isn’t exactly geared for fundamentalists. And while this album certainly shouldn’t be categorized as a political record, there’s simply no denying the influence our past election cycle and our contemporary political climate had on shaping the album’s overall vibe. If any of this seems difficult to believe, you needn’t look any farther than the animated video for the album’s opener, “Seizure and Desist.”
As the core chaos from the aforementioned track settles, the audience is granted a roughly 40-second respite of atmospheric creepiness. You may want to take a few breaths at this point, as its one of the few low-key breaks you’re going to get. “Idiopathic” is on deck, and delivers an unrelenting attack, reminiscent of old-school east coast hardcore acts like Agnostic Front or Deep Wound.
The album inspiration is much farther reaching than just the east coast, however. Case in point, the album’s only cover song, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” (originally written by England-based Bauhaus), proves the group’s genuine appreciation for punk’s many subgenres and forefathers all over the globe. It’s a chilling and driving rendition of the influential tune, only about a third as long as the original, and far away the deepest deviation from the album’s sonic motif.
The album will be available for purchase August 4, 2017. To promote the record, the band will be touring for the first time ever. Secret Chiefs 3, featuring Mike Patton’s former bandmate, Trey Spruance, will support most of upcoming dates as well. Check below for details. (Ipecac Recordings/Three One G) – Words by Andrew Humphrey
August 10 Santa Ana, CA  The Observatory *
August 11  Las Vegas, NV  Brooklyn Bowl
August 12  Phoenix, AZ  The Marquee *
August 14  Dallas, TX  Gas Monkey Bar & Grill
August 15  Houston, TX  Warehouse Live
August 16  Austin, TX  Emo’s
August 18  Tucson, AZ  The Rialto Theatre *
August 19  San Diego, CA  The Observatory North Park
August 21  Los Angeles, CA  El Rey Theatre
August 23  Berkeley, CA  The UC Theatre
August 25  Vancouver, BC  Vogue Theatre
August 26  Seattle, WA  The Showbox
August 27  Portland  Wonder Ballroom
August 29  Sacramento, CA  Ace of Spades
September 8  Baltimore, MD  Baltimore Soundstage
September 10  Philadelphia, PA  Union Transfer
September 11  Boston, MA  Royale
September 12  New York, NY  Gramercy Theatre
September 13  Brooklyn, NY  Warsaw
September 15  Detroit, MI  St. Andrew’s Hall
September 16  Chicago, IL  Riot Fest *
September 17  Milwaukee, WI  Turner Hall Ballroom
September 19  Minneapolis, MN  First Avenue
September 20  Lawrence, KS  Liberty Hall
September 23  Denver, CO  Ogden Theatre
* – Secret Chiefs 3 do not perform