(NCS contributor BadWolf is back with another edition of “Think Local, Sound Global”)
The re-master is a quirky thing; nearly as tricky to successfully pull off as the re-recording or the dreaded lead vocalist swap. It takes guts to do any of them without a huge dedicated fanbase, and a keen ear to do any of them well.
Kudos, then, to Detroit’s underground metal standard-bearers Battlecross. They are at the moment re-mastering their self-produced debut, Push, Pull, Destroy, with new vocal tracks from a different lead singer, but no label to speak of backing them in any way.
Here’s the rub: the new versions of the songs sound amazing. That this band does not have more widespread recognition is a travesty. Battlecross have been playing in Michigan for years at events like Dirtfest and Ogrefest, as well as opening for bigger bands like Mushroomhead and The Faceless—ever sharpening their chops, as well as licking them. These guys are tighter than a nun, and often play right in the crowd just to make a point—they don’t mess around, they slay. (more after the jump . . .)
Our heroes at MetalSucks have pioneered the coverage of a new wave of technical thrash with Revocation, Sylsosis, and Lazarus AD (I hear their new album sucks, a shame) spearheading the sound. Battlecross fit neatly in this category, but for my money I’d listen to them over any of those bands any day. The 80’s thrash greats are a part of the mix (Battlecross are known to cover both Slayer and Metallica with some frequency at live shows), along with the more refined rhythmic touches of Lamb of God, Machine Head, or Gojira. Add to that an in-your-face level of technicality and big, colorful melodies and you have some idea of the Battlecross sound.
The core members of Battlecross are guitar partners Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagale (who has filled in for fellow Midwestern tech-thrashers Woe of Tyrants). The two have been playing together since 2004 and write the sort of trade-off riff/lead patterns that make good bands into great bands.
Battlecross also may have one of the best rhythm sections of any band in recent memory. Drummer Mike Kreger, who has won local accolades at Michigan’s now-defunct metal institution Dirtfest, has some of the cleanest kick patterns this side of Vinnie Paul Abbot. Bassist Don Slater must be heard—he would not be out of place in a djent or European teth group. The space he is given in Battlecross lets him add an intense level of depth—the man’s tone vocabulary is excellent, and unlike some more well-known/celebrated metal bassists, he does not need gimmicky bends and slaps to remind the listener he exists, his shredding is proof enough.
The last piece is Gumby Gunther, the new guy. I’ve never seen him front for Battlecross in a live show (they have not played near me when I haven’t had prior engagements, but we’re working on that) so I cannot speak for his charisma or stage show, but his vocal performance is excellent and speaks for itself, especially on the re-mastered title track.
Battlecross are currently finishing their debut version 2.0, and looking for some sort of distribution. I am waiting with bated breath for a re-master, for once, and I think you should be, too.
UPDATE FROM THE EDITOR: For old and new fans of Battlecross, check out BadWolf’s recent interview with band members at this location.