Monday, June 4, 2012

Mongrel's Cross - The Sins of Aquarius (2012)

Continuing the longstanding tradition of Australian savagery once heralded by groups like Bestial Warlust, Gospel of the Horns and Deströyer 666, Queensland trio Mongrel's Cross arrive with their first full-length The Sins of Aquarius, an act of barbaric bombast which could not be better suited to the Hells Headbangers Records imprint upon which it resides. I'm not implying that this accounts for any sense of predictability, only that the group resembles others in that particular stable in terms of how they strongly emphasize an old school sense of aggression that transcends any one genre. You could just as evenly brand The Sins of Aquarius a black, death or thrash metal record: it draws upon all of these influences in a way that recalls the early manifestations of deities like Bathory or Hellhammer, or perhaps the Brazilian forebears, while retaining its own core consistency.

There's certainly a tendency towards mid-paced, flooding walls of chords that cut at the soul much like the later 80s recordings of Bathory, but Mongrel's Cross also intersperse the occasional burst of blasted tremolo riffing. In fact, I'd say that, aside from its atmosphere, with that excellent swell of evil organs inaugurating the titular opening track, or the obscure Mazes and Monsters sample that leads into the hellish headrush of "Indulge the Temple", the bands forte is its ability to pace it itself out with these glorious, swaggering rhythms like the verse of "Lead Them from the Promised Land" that just make you want to place an axe into something living. Don't get me wrong, this isn't 'Viking' metal, but there's a related, muscular aesthetic at play through the burgeoning grooves and immense, crashing percussion that summons up the same testosterone you might have once felt for Blood Fire Death, only threaded with some pure death and thrash rhythms circa US underground sources of the 80s, and a more blunt, guttural vocal delivery from the guitarist 'Grand Mongrel' which beats on you like a meat tenderizer prepping you for the oven.

The Sins of Aquarius is not entirely wrought of the most memorable or unexpected stock, but moments like the breakout of the simple lead in "Hunters of the Born Again" kill me every time I hear them. The seven tracks all flow accordingly, like a slow and glorious spiral into hell fraught with the illest of intentions, and it benefits immensely from the raw, full production which manages to balance all the instruments into a loud and brute comprehension, whether the band is plowing ahead forcefully or breaking down for a choppier, percussive punk/thrash rhythm (like you'll hear in "Indulge the Temple"). The band could probably tweak a few better guitar lines into the formula, and the vocals could also use more variation and sickness, but on the whole, this is a solid and angry debut sure to sate advocates of old school black/thrash or black/death acts of decades past, or fellow Aussie groups like Hunters Moon, Shackles, and Denouncement Pyre.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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