Intra-band chemistry is a complex and fragile thing. Anyone who has shared an apartment with a few others knows the pain of trying to get along with that one person who always goes missing whenever it’s time to clean up or sets off the fire alarm smoking weed at three in the morning when some of us are trying to get some fucking sleep goddamnit.
For example. Absolutely not drawing on personal experience here, no sir.
Anyway, the point is that when you’re forced into close proximity with other human beings who normally seem quite decent, their flaws are magnified and everything can begin to grate on you. And that just involves them living up to normal human standards of decency. Now imagine you have to make music with someone, or four other someones. You not only have to learn to tolerate these people, you have to become a harmonized creative unit. Often while living in a van. To mesh personalities and creative tendencies in such a way is so difficult and rare that even when great and successful musicians come together to form a supergroup, there is a high chance it will just crash and burn.
But still, despite the history of failures and barely remembered half-bands, people still try it. Maybe it’s out of the same impulse that leads people to buy lottery tickets and believe one of these days it’s going to pay off. Or maybe it’s because the resulting fireworks when the chemistry does work are worth the risk of failure. If that’s the case, then Tau Cross have provided people with another reason to believe in the dream. Composed of members of Amebix, Voivod and Misery, their self-titled debut album is an anthem-filled folksy punk-metal blast, as exciting and fun in the parts that will have you building effigies from straw as it is in the sections where you’re more likely to be giving yourself piercings with a safety pin. Tau Cross have something unique on their hands here, simultaneously a party folk album and a rocking but grounded punk metal blowout, the songwriting hitting all the checkboxes required to hook fans of its underlying genres.
For fans of folk, the joy is in the grounded, traditional element of the album. Songs like “The Devil Knows His Own”, “We Control The Fear” and “Sons Of The Soil” may be the most obvious folk hits on the album, taking cues from both folk and the rock bands of the seventies and eighties but the entire album lives in a bygone era. The imagery in the lyrics is earthy and evocative, using tales of desolate countryside, cruel executions and fireside ghost stories, accomplishing much the same effect as Bruce Springsteen does when he sings of steel mills and ‘Nam. It feels incredibly rich and genuine, especially for an album released in 2015. Folk enthusiasts will also be drawn to the deep, soulful timbre of frontman Rob Miller’s voice, delivering these lyrics in an epic fashion that helps give them a real weight and impact. As a result, when the album switches to folk mode, the entire experience is fully realised, like hearing an old ballad you had never come across for the first time.
However, the punk and metal crowd won’t be walking away from the album empty handed. It turns out that when Miller isn’t crooning out nostalgic recollections of the mud on his father’s boots, he’s practicing a vicious snarl, sitting somewhere between the sneering attitude and anger of punk and the intense earnestness and ominous nature of black metal. Using it to full effect on riffy punk numbers like “Stonecracker ” and towering album opener “Lazarus”, it is the perfect complement to the accomplished, catchy riffage of the punk scorchers. The riffs have a punk rock simplicity and drive to them, while the execution and extra touches like the keyboards and atmospherics employed feel a little more pulled from the world of metal. The hybrid is a rocking, hooky style that is incredibly immediate but with enough depth to stay interesting beyond that initial rush.
Tau Cross’ debut is an absolute treat. Whether you’re a fan of quiet acoustics or screaming amps, tearing riffs or massive choruses, there is a song on here for you, and if you happen to enjoy them all you may find yourself in some sort of happy coma. I highly recommend it. Wicked opening track Lazarus is embedded below and you can listen to the album as a whole on Lazarus’ Bandcamp page.