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Genre politics aside, the secret to the success and longevity of crossover is this: F.U.N.
Take the rhythmic and repetitive elements of hardcore punk, combine them with the speed and intensity of thrash metal, mix the unholy concoction in a blender of unwashed denim jackets, maligned youth and sweaty, basement shows, and you have yourself one hell of a good time. With thrash currently experiencing its greatest resurgence since the glory days of The Big Four in the mid-80’s, it’s only fair that crossover makes its way into the spotlight once again. And if you’re confused as to what exactly ‘crossover’ is, then you’re not alone. It’s often confused with ‘thrashcore,’ or traditionally defined ‘metalcore,’ but in all honesty, the need for a ‘-core’ suffix is kind of superfluous at this point anyway. Essentially, it all boils down to this: do you want/need more thrash metal in your hardcore punk? Then that, dear friends, is crossover. If all you seek is just faster hardcore punk, with the inclusion of sporadic metal riffs, then you’ll be looking elsewhere on the grand musical spectrum.
As their Bandcamp profile suggests, Virginian thrashers Iron Reagan “are no strangers to the art of crossover.” With a pedigree of musicianship that includes time spent in influential acts like Municipal Waste, Cannabis Corpse and Darkest Hour, ‘Crossover Ministry’ is the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of house parties, beer bongs, and die-hard riffage. It’s the group’s third full-length effort, coming hot on the heels of 2013’s ‘Worse Than Dead’ and 2014’s ‘The Tyranny of Will’. And in the time between records, the world may have changed substantially (take another look at their name and reach your own conclusion there.) But like any devout followers, Iron Reagan have diligently kept the faith, with ‘Crossover Ministry’ sporting 18 tracks overall and clocking in at a blistering 29 minutes.
If you want musical exploration, subtle shifts in moods and textures, or a profound sense of progression, then this is not the album for you. However, if you’re ready to be baptised in a sea of supercharged riffs, hazardous transitions and a full-throttle assault on the senses, then your salvation awaits.
Highlights include the veritable avalanche of snare-rolls that propel lead single ‘Bleed The Fifth’, or the skit introduction and potty-mouth, choral chant of ‘Fuck The Neighbors’ — which is just as juvenile (and enjoyable) as it sounds. The crushing, nihilistic bent of ‘Dead With My Friends’ is the closest Iron Reagan have ever come to a having a fully-fledged anthem, with frontman Tony Foresta’s mid-range yell piercing the very fabric of reality (“If everyone is a puppet/How am I the only one that sees the strings?”), effectively channelling the rage and frustration of today’s world. While balls-out ragers like ‘Grim Business,’ ‘Blatant Violence’ and ‘More War’ are perfectly transparent in their intent, with the band’s political stance intricately woven into both their sonic delivery and lyrical backdrop (“More war more war/Let’s make more guns/Let’s charge the poor/They’ll never learn”). And even without a clearly defined message, tracks like the kinetic ‘Power of the Skull,’ or the hilarious ‘Parents of Tomorrow,’ easily find perfection well under the one-minute mark.
But as with any two-dimensional musical exercise, it’s easy to stumble and fall flat. The inclusion of guest vocals in ‘Condition Evolution’ probably looked good on paper, but here the end result feels clumsy and hit-or-miss. Likewise, the first ten seconds of ‘Megachurch’ sound all-too-promising, until some bizarre and awfully-pitched clean vocals arrive and viciously suck the listener out of their basement show, riot-moment revelry. Even back-end additions like ‘Shame Spiral,’ ‘Dogsnotgods’ and the stellar ‘Twist Your Fate’ can’t make the electronic squelches and sub-drop burst in ‘Eat or Be Eaten’ sound any less perfunctory and woefully out of place.
If ‘Crossover Ministry’ is to be considered a sacred text of crossover execution, then Iron Reagan ultimately make fitting disciples. There isn’t much going on inside ‘Crossover Ministry’ that will shock or surprise faithful followers of thrash as both a genre and musical force. However, it’s more than merely competent, with Iron Reagan’s members having amassed enough collective experience to make ‘Crossover Ministry’ feel fresh and invigorating at times, while also acknowledging the three preceding decades of E-minor riffs, dive-bombs and 4/4 drum passages.
If nothing else, it’s fast, aggressive and a whole lot of fun.
- A Dying World
- You Never Learn
- Grim Business
- Dead With My Friends
- No Sell
- Condition Evolution
- Fuck the Neighbors
- Power of the Skull
- Crossover Ministry
- More War
- Blatant Violence
- Parents of Tomorrow
- Bleed the Fifth
- Shame Spiral
- Eat or be Eaten
- Twist Your Fate
‘Crossover Ministry’ is available now through Relapse Records.