Burnt Cross

[Burnt Cross - Life Is A Battlefield sleeve]"Life Is A Battlefield" (EP, 2015)

Tadpole Records, Urinal Vinyl Records, Global Resistance Records, Lukket Avdeling Records, Distro-Y Records, Rusty Knife Records, Black Rose Records

So another Burnt Cross 7”, and another slight let down. This release again sees them showing their influences (not always a bad thing) from the Rudimentary Peni style cover art, to the Conflict influenced title track which borrows from Increase The Pressure. It has a nice bass intro, but doesn’t really go anywhere. With a very basic structure and lyrics like “There’s no way to stop it and the cancer just spreads/ Everything turns to shit where the warmongers treads” it’s never going to set the world alight. 

Seasons Change sees them moving into an oddly (for them) trad-metal direction (which is totally a thing), and drops the tempo to slightly disconcerting effect, forcing the adoption of some slightly clumsy vocal phrasing to make the lyrics fit the structure of the song. I also couldn’t really work out what the lyric was saying – obviously seasons change, and things move on, but it’s not clear whether the song is saying this is good, bad or indifferent. It also features a long guitar solo, which while is very competently played and isn’t the normal metal fretwankery, is a bit surplus to requirements in my view. The key to this kind of thing is to make it part of the song, rather than sticking it in the middle or tacking it on the end, as in this case. 

Which brings us nicely to Mirrors of Deception where the balance between thrashing and soloing is nicely handled, with break downs and build-ups creating an interesting tension. Normally typified by an almost spoken, slightly hectoring vocal style, on this song Paul Marriot does a perfectly decent job of (whisper it) singing. There’s a slightly hesitant edge to the delivery as if he lacked confidence in his abilities and was scared to really let go and belt it out. This results in it occasionally sounding a bit like The Apostles (if The Apostles could play, and Andy Martin could sing). 

I think this may be due to one of the perils of home recording, what seems perfectly natural in the recording studio, seems slightly ridiculous when you’re doing it in your bedroom and you have to think of the neighbours. In the end though what this song needs is feedback, and a more powerful guitar sound, which is very difficult to achieve if you’re not playing through a big amp at high volume. 

The last (and least) track is Fuck Russia, and while I appreciate the sentiment, it’s a bit throwaway, fuelled by (entirely justified) rage at the Russian State’s homophobia, but not much else. I understand and admire the decision to remain a non-gigging, home recorded, DIY concern, but playing live gives you the chance to road test your material, and fine tune the songs. 

So to sum up: good, not great. More feedback please. 5/10 

Nick Hydra (May 2015)

[The Beg Society/Anathema split 7" sleeve]"The Beg Society/Anathema" (Anthrax/Burnt Cross split 7" Single, 2014)

Distro-y Records

Anthrax and Burnt Cross are two of the best bands currently operating within the anarcho-punk genre, and both of them stand out for different reasons. Anthrax for being one of the few ‘reformed’ bands that have released new material, and for being one of the even fewer that have released good new material, Burnt Cross for being one of the few ‘new’ bands that have avoided the crust/grind cul de sac of no tunes and less style. So I was looking forward to this split 7” with some anticipation. Was that anticipation justified? Well, yes and no. 

Anthrax’s The Beg Society is a rousing attack on the politics of austerity, and like the songs on their recent LP is a proper tune with a giant chorus. Crystal clear Pil-esque lead guitar sits on top of the chugging rhythm for the first half, gradually building to slashing, almost reggae chords in the mid-section, and then an explosive barrage of riffling as the song reaches its climax. The vocals express not just anger, but also compassion for the people caught in the poverty trap, relying on “Hand outs, food banks and charity” just to survive. And this is Anthrax’s great skill, expressing their anarchism via the politics of everyday life, singing of a society where “We're all out to tender/ We’ve all have been bought and sold/ Slowly being crushed by the shareholder hold” without sounding like social workers (or worse). 

Burnt Cross have two songs on the single, and although I like both of them a lot, they’re a bit disappointing compared not just to Anthrax’s effort, but also to their own recent work. I’ve been buying their records for several years now, and have admired their refusal to play by any rules but their own. A two piece consisting of two brothers who make all their recordings in a bedroom using just an 8-track with built in drum machine, they’ve consistently released good and sometimes great records. Sadly, this release falls into the ‘good’ rather than the ‘great’ category. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still miles better than most contemporary anarcho-punk efforts, it’s just a bit lack-lustre by their usual standards.

The first track Anathema features a guest female vocalist (Maureen Bourne from the fantastically named Men Oh Pause) who unfortunately does the ‘high-pitched’ style of singing that will be familiar from a lot of anarcho records. It's not as bad as D.I.R.T., for instance, but it's a style that I find grating, so I could’ve done without it personally. Second song The Inner Revolutionist has a great tune; unfortunately it's the tune to Conflict’s Slaughter of Innocence. Given the debt Burnt Cross owe to Eltham’s finest (Anathema even features their patented double tracked vocal style), I can't believe they weren't aware of the similarity, so I'm assuming it's a deliberate pastiche/homage, but it's a bit... pointless. On both songs the lyrics are nicely off-kilter, reflecting an interest in the more extreme ends of metal (where else would you find the lines “Wings of fear unfold as a witness to its own ruin” in a song about the international arms trade?), and the playing is crisp and powerful, but it never quite grabs you by the throat. 

So, very definitely worth your attention if you're at all interested in anarcho punk, but you should also seek out both bands' other recent work. Anthrax's All For The Cause’ because it's as good as this single, and Burnt Cross's Mankind's Obituary because it's better than this (admittedly still pretty good) effort. 9/10 (Anthrax) 6/10 (Burnt Cross) 7.5/10 (Overall) 

Nick Hydra (November 2014)

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