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Battlecross - "Pursuit of Honor" (CD)

Battlecross - "Pursuit of Honor" CD cover image

"Pursuit of Honor" track listing:

1. Pursuit of Honor (0:38)
2. Push Pull Destroy (3:35)
3. Kaleb (3:40)
4. Deception (3:28)
5. Man of Stone (3:47)
6. Breaking You (3:56)
7. Rupture (3:49)
8. Leech (2:46)
9. Better Off Dead (4:11)
10. Misery (4:50)
11. Foreshadowing (1:42)

Reviewed by on October 19, 2011

"...after a year or two of refining the sound, Battlecross’ sophomore album should be absolutely killer."

The thrash revival marches on, and now that most every old fringe thrash outfit has been resurrected (seriously, anyone that can name one thrash band that released an album in the 1980s but hasn’t in the last two years gets a gold star), the labels are turning to younger bands more and more to fill the public’s voracious appetite for the next hot thrash thing. The shiny new knuckledraggers in Battlecross weren’t even alive when “Reign In Blood” or “Master of Puppets” was released, and thus are very willing to blaspheme their forefathers’ gospels with modern elements like black, death, and ‘core. From Detroit and newly signed to Metal Blade, Battlecross walks the edge of the blasphemer knife and is largely successful, but only when the lessons of the band’s predecessors are followed.

Battlecross lays a base of Bay Area thrash, but covers it up with heaping helpings of tech-leaning death and snippets of ‘core (read: occasional breakdowns and gang vocals). Drummer Mike Kreger’s blast beats are precise, and guitarists Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagala play tremolo riffs and open chords with skilled competence. Which is all fine and makes for some solid – if unoriginal – tech-leaning death, but the band really shines when leaving the rote death metal and focusing on the thrash itself.

Even if they weren’t alive when Slayer and Metallica were doing their 1980s thing, the Battlecross members did their homework. Bassist Don Slater Burton-izes “Pursuit of Honor” with his slickly alternated fretboard runs and massive back end (check out “Man of Stone” and “Breaking You”). Asta and Deraniyagala are best when doing King-Hanneman impressions with deftly traded riffs, fills, and solos instead of their circular death metal workouts that merely keep time with Kreger’s double counted blasts.

“Pursuit of Honor” is succinct - with only nine proper songs among the 11 tracks it clocks in at a mere 36 minutes. Which is good, as Battlecross’ two main concepts are death walkabouts and thrash heroics. The slightly less-than-light-speed thrash focuses Battlecross on melody and interplay, instead of just speed and brutality; “Rupture” is a particular offender, as the bridges don’t leave room for dual guitar layers and lithe bass, and the rest of the song is death-riffed and blast-beaten to hell (save the lyrical bass solo in the last 20 seconds or so). “Better Off Dead” is a middling deathcore clunker, and “Misery” is stuck in death swamp and doesn’t summon the melodic inspiration of the thrash bits, like “Push Pull Destroy.”

Crossing boundaries and combining influences is great, as is experimentation. But it sounds like these young-uns are playing what they like to listen to, not what they are best at. Which is fine, as we should respect the artistic choice, even if the output suffers. But the best bit is this: after a year or two of refining the sound, Battlecross’ sophomore album should be absolutely killer.

Highs: The dual guitar leads combined with bass runs is sublime.

Lows: The death metal parts are standard, run-of-the-mill stuff.

Bottom line: Death-thrash debut album shows promise.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)