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ALBUM: Battlecross – ‘Rise To Power’
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ALBUM: Battlecross – ‘Rise To Power’

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Few things are as fun to listen to as a good thrash metal record. If the tried-and-true formula works correctly, you as a listener will be compelled to grow your hair out specifically for headbanging purposes when listening to said record. Your fingers may also quickly learn how to form the devil horn symbol.

It’s with that exact spirit of metal insanity that Detroit, Michigan’s own Battlecross have based their existence off. With their growing listene-base after 2 solid releases, relentless touring schedules and association with established acts the boys are back in town with a thrash record that will bring to mind the greats of the genre. It’s perfectly clear with Rise To Power that these 5 men know how to imbue a supposedly tired sound with new life and a decidedly American accent, all the while borrowing a few elements from the Swedes and the Brits of old that made the New Wave of American Heavy Metal what it was 10 years ago.

It’s startling how much energy Battlecross are able to portray in their music. This is thanks largely in part to having 2 phenomenal guitarists (Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagala) who no doubt grew up on lots of Pantera and Iron Maiden but also look to a modern act such as Trivium when it comes to combining those influences. Newly-inducted drummer Alex Bent’s groove-oriented playing style combines with Don Slater’s prevalent, active bass slaps to create a formidable rhythmic assault that calls to mind the best moments of Lamb of God’s career. Kyle Gunther’s melodeath-style shrieks, roars and passionate lyricism add greatly to the insanity and balance out the overall educated metal influence and heart.

That’s the thing: Battlecross are certainly a band who are well-versed in metal and this isn’t simply a statement written on paper – The proof is in a song such as “Not Your Slave” that ascends from a simple foundated rhythmic punch with satisfying in-the-pocket bass playing to a downright epic dual solo section that begs to be jotted down as one of the coolest guitar works put to audio format in quite awhile. Hiran and Tony have a classic chemistry that most guitar duos brought up in the past 5-10 years lack or haven’t taken the time to develop that should not be underestimated. Also worth mentioning is the largest strong suit of Rise: It’s a technically deep metal record, but it’s also accessible. The guitars are constant, ever-changing and arguably the stand-out instruments on the record, but not ridiculously difficult to follow as in a band such as Revocation. The relentless attack of classic thrash chugs are there too and without the less-is-more groove metal vibe provided by the rhythm section Rise wouldn’t have the backbone nor the attitude that it possesses, making Battlecross one of the most solid metal groups of the modern era.

Rise‘s abundant consistency is a two-way street: If you love what you hear in the first 4 tracks you’ll likely be able to speed through this album no problem. If you feel you’re catching onto a formula, you’re correct, but rarely are the thrash ingredients this well-implemented. “Scars” opens the record out of the gate, “Blood & Lies” slows down the relentless attack for a mid-album spell before picking back up and de-crescendoing perfectly with closer “The Path”, just like on your favorite Metallica records (The first 4). No tempo on this record is ever less than blazing fast and to some that might make the band appear as one-note but it’s the blend of genre elements that defeats that claim. Battlecross have realized their sound and streamlined it while simultaneously expanding to new areas. I think third and fourth tracks respectively “Absence” and “Spoiled” represent that best.

Whether the year be 1987, 2006 or 2015 Battlecross are a band who could easily thrive thanks to their wide palatte of metal influences and rapidly ascending reputation. In terms of album titles I don’t think the band could have picked a more appropriate one than Rise To Power, because that’s exactly what they’re about to do. I rank this album amongst the modern thrash elite of Lamb of God’s As The Palaces Burn and Machine Head’s The Blackening. For any metal fan who keeps up the mere association with those records is reason enough to go find out just who the fuck Battlecross are and there’s no better time than now to do so.

Matthew Powers I write reviews for CaliberTV and enjoy the existence of music.

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