Dead Cross – Dead Cross Review

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A supergroup record that is better than it has any right to be
Ipecac Records, 2017
Purchase: Bandcamp / Amazon

7.5 / 10

Dead Cross booked shows before they even had any music under their name. So it goes for rock-n-roll supergroups. On this edition of Supergroup-That-Will-Probably-End-Up-As-A-Really-Interesting-Subsection-On-Some-Musician’s-Wikipedia-Page, we have Dead Cross. It’s a band whose members include Mike Patton (Faith No More), Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies), Mike Crain (Retox), and Justin Pearson (Retox, The Locust, Swing Kids). In a weird twist of fate, Dead Cross started originally with a different vocalist (Gabe Serbian). Then, the band recruited Patton to re-record and re-write the vocal tracks for an already-made album. That should sound familiar. It’s basically the story of Patton’s recruitment into Faith No More’s excellent The Real Thing.

Even though Patton was brought in after the band’s formation — and after the recording of the self-titled album — this review will focus primarily on his involvement. Why? Because I love the dude, and as Earbuddy’s resident Mike Patton Enthusiast, it’s part of my job. And if you are also a Mike Patton Enthusiast, like myself, you’ll know that Patton’s had a bit of a dry spell. Oh, his prolific output undoubtedly steady, but his batting average isn’t what it used to be.

His last truly great album was his solo record Mondo Cane. I can’t stress enough how much you should check out this live, full-orchestra album of Italian pop ditties from the 1950’s. However, this album came in 2010. While 2016’s Nevermen had a few bright moments, it did not live up to its pedigree. The same is true for 2015’s Faith No More reunion, Sol Invictus. A case could be made for 2013’s Oddfellows, the Tomahawk record. But that project has been so divisive for Patton’s fans that it’s hard to recommend. This is all to say:

Dead Cross is the best record featuring Mike Patton in 7 years.

It’s a dark punk record, but if you look at it under the right lighting, you could call it metal, or thrash. It’s heavy, fast, and it blows through its 28-minute runtime like an oil fire. Dead Cross is muscular and pounding. Palm-muted power-chords, Lombardi socking the toms like they owe him money, and bass riffs that feel like a runaway train. This music deserves to be played loud. What makes the album of interest; however, is Patton’s involvement. He sounds his most interested since Mondo Cane.

Now that Patton has his own home-studio, it’s easy for him to stay at home, record his vocals away from the band, and mail it away. This is exactly what happens in most of the man’s collaborations these days. The proof is in the pudding: it results in weaker records. However, Dead Cross seems to have sparked something in Patton. Maybe his inspiration came from working in metal again after taking so much time away from Fantomas? Whatever the case, he’s all over this record. Guttural growls, shrieks, Las Vegas-style croons, and even a little Italian there for good measure.

Like many of Patton’s projects, I don’t have high hopes for a sequel. His discography has become a museum of strange collaborations, one-off projects, and curios (and where’s that Crudo album at, anyway?). Dead Cross is a fun, nihilistic smash to the head. Even though it’s a record of certified pedigree, its ambitions are modest. Deliver crushing blow after crushing blow, and by those measures, it’s a success. Its modest goals may relegate it into “minor Lombardi” or “minor Patton”. But if all of their “minor” work sounds like this, please sign me up.

Key Tracks:
“Gag Reflex”
“Obedience School”
“Seizure & Desist”