Hot Cross – Cryonics – 4.5/5
This band plays Screamo. That's emotional post-hardcore with screamed vocals; the kind of depressed cries of anguish that perpetuate the sensation of despair at personal circumstances beyond your control. SCREAMO. Right, now that I've successfully dissuaded the close-minded amongst you – I have no particular desire to go on a rant about how you probably haven't heard what the genre has to offer, there's fourfa for that – I can get on with detailing precisely why this is an album that should excite. It's not quite old-school, being release in '03, but if you track the origins of its members you'll note that they, in fact, are. The vocalist and drummer arrive from Saetia, one of the kings of classic 90's emo. One guitarist arrives from “Off Minor,” known for his distinctive progressive take on the genre, and the other from “You and I,” the least well known of the three bands who are none the less talented. If all this means nothing to you, let me break it down further: this band is hot shit.
In fact, with this much talent on display you'd expect them to be headed down shitsville, each member vying for control and forgetting that there's another four members whose just as good as them, but that never happens. It never feels anything less than an artist that have been playing together all their lives, some bizarre cohesive unit that despite being separated into individual musicians seems to function from a shared consciousness. There are three vocalists but they are all there to serve a purpose, the main dealing with the majority of the duties but often found playing off against one of his backing vocalists; the clean toned contrast to his screams or engaging in shouting match with an alter ego. No doubt if you despise screams in your music then this will become an obstacle, but the lyrics aren't angst-filled or juvenile; one track begins by screaming out “Give me back one last chance to drink from the sky. I'm sick of chasing echoes and fighting a lost cause just to let words fly.” Emotional tragedies still are it's core but there's a sense of depth and poetry to it that defies the usual criticisms.
But if the intricate layers of vocals and lyrical lines was complex, it's not a thing on the composition of the guitars; the vocals can always strip themselves down to just the lead vocalist, but the guitars don't ever stop. The bass is given no less prominence in the final mix than the guitarists are, maintaining a rhythm and forming a bridge between the drums and guitar work, but ultimately playing lines that are his and his alone. The guitars are no different; clean though perhaps with a slight twang or use of effects pedals for more atmospheric lines, no singular element takes the lead and instead find themselves weaving in and out of one another, creating complexity through intricately layering them, harmonising each element into a single track. It's not just one specific passage where they worked this out either, their progressive format completely removes all chorus lines and allows the pieces to fluidly change one element at a time. It's simply unlike any other artist I can name.
But my praise for them hasn't quite finished here. Three vocalists and three guitarists all playing completely independent lines, layered on top of one another so that it'll always give you plenty to listen to. You'd expect it all to be a bit too much, a bit too chaotic with your focus divided between too many elements. The real beauty of their composition is in just how much this doesn't ever happen; how they are able to create a melodious chaos with guitar riffs flying in from nowhere, playing in unison, but then in an instant tone everything down for a ballad, and despite the inherent complexity of the composition, have the elements work together in perfect harmony. To call their work rich and vibrant is a massive understatement; each track is intricately woven around each of the musicians and the result is a melody that is both instantly memorable yet sustainable over a number of listens. Hot Cross's debut effort is a forgotten gem of the screamo era that many modern artists would do well to pay attention to: this is how you do it properly.
Highlights: Pretty Picture of a Broken Face, A Tale for the Ages, Requiescat