Musings on music, old, new, popular and obscure. Post punk, metal, hip-hop, funk, and rock in general. A music fan with a desire to lose boundaries on what should and should not be listened to writes about experience in music from a listener's perspective, hopefully unhindered by prior expectation.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I've Never Met a Traitor I Didn't Like -- Hot Cross' Cryonics

To avoid getting mired in an excessive numbers or numerals, I'm moving away from the titling format for this discussion of these releases--also reflecting the fact that this is the last of a previously singular post broken down into the separate releases that were to compose it. I'd gotten up to this album, wrote half of it, realized it was going to be a stupidly long post and asked my friend Brian who agreed splitting things might be advisable. So, now, I'm breaking away from even that and simply writing on the albums on their own terms. I'll still tag them as part of that series, but let the posts have a little breathing space from uniformity.

This was the find that day, for sure. While Special Wishes was nice in that it wasn't going to be easy to find cheap, I've seen Harvey Milk albums float around and did not know at the time it was a rare one--indeed, I'd bought the compilation of their early singles and splits from the very same store. Of course, I learned in the course of my usual dissection and reassembly of compiled tracks into their original sources that the insert for that CD is basically the only place you can find the cover art for those old Harvey Milk singles!

Still, I picked up Hot Cross's Risk Revival a few years back, only because its listed label was Equal Vision Records, which was the first label Coheed and Cambria was on--at least, under the name Coheed and Cambria (obsessive fans know that of course the Delirium Trigger EP was released under the name "Shabutie," and it came out on the label Wisteria). Admittedly, Equal Vision does stop off into stuff that I don't feel like I have time to sift through, so this isn't a guarantee, but looking into Risk Revival led me to the track "Turncoat Revolution," which has one of the most blisteringly fantastic central riffs around (comparable in some ways to the riff from Converge's "Dark Horse" I mentioned in the previously).

Allegedly, the album is "screamo," which is one of the most derogatorily used genre names I've ever heard--both dismissive and denigrating--in almost every context I've ever seen it used. The reviews I found were the ones on Amazon, though, which meant there was only a handful of them, all three stars and all from a community embracing the genre names rather than using them as catch-all insults. I always prefer finding such reviews to get an idea of what genres mean, as I read things like "While Hot Cross may most commonly be known as the band that came after Saetia," as it gives me a nice context for what a band is to the community it comes from. Of course, I still haven't ever seen any Saetia so, despite the fact that they were clearly a central figure here, I haven't a great idea what they sound like.

The album, though, was great--sure, Billy Werner is screaming throughout the album (if you take that reductive approach of "aggressive vocals are always screaming" that doesn't appreciate the variation in methods used to achieve aggressive vocals), and yes, it's got a sense of betrayal, loss and emotional frustration and anger, but the lyrics are intelligent and interesting. But forget all that--the thing smokes:

That was probably one of the best  pseudo-blind purchases I ever made on an obscure, defunct band out of a morass of random titles--a set of releases dumped at an FYE because the labels had damaged stock, missing slipcases or re-packaged used titles. There was a lot of Equal Vision, plenty of Earache and a few other labels that would catch my eye quickly. It was the same boxes of miscellaneously labeled stuff that spawned some of the purchases mentioned here.

Soon, Hot Cross entered my regular listening for its mix of melody, aggression and expression. It manages to ride a crest of energy that more aggressively abrasive bands (such as the death metal bands I listen to) can occasionally become tiring with, never quite crossing that point as the clever guitarwork carries the sound for the part of me that appreciates the "prettier" side of things. By this time, I let Chaz over at Bull City Records know I was on the lookout (inspiring the usual response to mentions of Hot Cross: "Man, haven't heard that name in a while!") and he suggested I check out Level Plane Records, which is a label he told me would carry similar material.

So, when I saw Cryonics at the store that day, I snatched it up without hesitation as my jaw dropped for seeing "Hot Cross" on a split card in a CD section in the first place. At this point, the band apparently functioned with two guitarists, creating a different variety of more complicated and often more subdued sorts of textures, exemplified in songs like "Frozen by Tragedy" (which tends away from naked aggression) or, "A Tale for the Ages":

And, of course, what label was Cryonics released on? Level Plane.

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