Released: 2015, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
You can almost think of Battlecross as the scrappier, snottier, thrashier little brothers of fellow Michiganders The Black Dahlia Murder. Strip away the black/death metal extravagance, some of the technical grace and much of the twisted wit of Black Dahlia, and you've got the more raw, rambunctious Battlecross.
Back with their third album, and third drummer in Alex Bent – ironically replacing ex-Dahlia drummer Shannon Lucas - the Detroit-area quintet offer a full-throttle, few frills thrash extravaganza in Rise To Power. Battlecross jump right into action with the rousing “Scars” and just keep right on raging with only modest variations in the tempo over Rise's 10 bristling tracks. “Not Your Slave,” for instance, follows “Scars” with a hooky chug, which then yields to the blast-beaty “Absence” - though that too boasts a chunky midsection.
The band keep things short, sweet and vicious here, ensuring maximum impact with a minimum of fuss - only album closer “The Path” breaks the 4-minute mark, and just barely. While there are certainly no shortage of riffs from Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagala, they spit 'em out like gangbusters – “Bound By Fear” and “Despised” make a particularly effective one-two punch - and keep things moving steadily forward. Some nimble but tidy soloing and a splash or two of acoustic guitar on, for instance, “Blood & Lies,” add flavor, but not at the expense of Rise's grit and power.
Frontman Kyle "Gumby" Gunther's bug-eyed caterwaul, which is reminiscent of Dahlia's Trevor Strnad - only not quite so squeally - can be something of an acquired taste. But he certainly reflects the unbridled spirit of the music, and his cheerleader-like energy is infectious even if his delivery is a wee bit grating.
The band's bio describes their sound as “blue collar thrash,” which certainly seems fitting. Rise To Power is brash, ragged and mean. It aims for the gut, and connects with nearly every blow. It doesn't exactly dazzle, but it definitely satisfies.