ere’s a roadblock: I wanted to start this review out by discussing the laughable parameters that have been set by less than causal hardcore fans lately concerning what exactly it is-- I guarantee you’ll read plenty of reviews of this very record that name drop noise duos and spend more time talking about the music’s fans than the music itself-- yet I didn’t want to seem like the defensive hardcore elitist. At the same time, I didn’t want to make attempts to pander to an audience that might not be well versed in the scene for fear of sounding like a clumsy neophyte. Then it dawned on me: I didn’t have to do either, because genre be damned, nothing brings people together like negativity, and well, I have plenty of that to aim at Cryonics, the full length debut from Hot Cross. The record is disappointing not only because of the ferocious potential of the band’s debut EP, A New Set of Lungs, but also because it finds the group reigning in their attack when the music flirts so dangerously close to the taut chaos to which they disarmingly acquiesced before.
At first glance, Hot Cross seem infallible. With a lineage that includes members of Saetia, Off Minor, and Neil Perry, and a battle plan that includes three deadly screamers bouncing words off each other and interlocking guitars, they signal a concurrent nod to the minimal basics of hardcore and the expanding future. “Born On The Cusp” (from the EP) saw them hit the mark with the first cut from their first release. Multiple vocals, searing wah-wah, unfettered drums; it sounded like four bands bleeding together in an apartment fire, and it was fiercely exciting. There were times over that EP, though, where the group drug its sound into a bland tedium, but it was one that was quickly enough shattered by the stray gunfire that was conjured out of nowhere. It’s that attention-rattling explosion that never comes to Cryonics because the sparks that would start it are never present in the first place. The record is the sound of two larger-than average hunks of gravel scraping together; the intention for fire is there, but all that resounds is the dry scrape of dust.
It becomes very quickly evident that Hot Cross’ approach has been heavily streamlined this time around, as the first minutes of “Fortune Teller” kick in. Every note is hit, as every guitar meshes seamlessly with the others; every word hangs like lead. This is a taxing listen. “Weekend Spent Askance” follows more in the EP’s vein until the sing-song-y vocals that alarmingly wind their way through the album kick in. This doesn’t sound like the boldly vital tumble of their best music, but more like a strained attempt at adhering to confines. The band’s strong technicality is vividly evident throughout, yet it isn’t used like a machete, cutting its way through the thick brush. Instead, the band concisely pares the songs down to their most succinct, polished point, and it couldn’t be more boring. Cryonics is the sound of Hot Cross yelling into a void that is filled with every cookie-cutter hardcore band there is.
Digging through this album for standout tracks becomes pointless after so many listens, but the album is hardly a total failure. What the band does, as grating as it becomes, is interesting enough, and warrants a few listens from hardcore listeners and outsider types alike. While it spends most of its time hitting hard, Cryonics is imbued with a capacity for mainstream appeal, and should go on to do well in indie outlets. All the same, it would be a shame for this album to break as a spokespiece for not only a genre, but a band, that can do oh so much better.
Reviewed by: Colin McElligatt
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01