Hot Cross-Risk Revival
Record Label: Hope Division/Equal Vision
Release Date: February 20th, 2007
Waiting for Hot Cross’ full-length follow up to 2003’s Cryonics has been like waiting for a new Converge or Tool album, it may take a while, but I was confident knowing that the band will not release something that didn’t live up to their expectations. This high self-standard is more apparent when considering that Hot Cross recorded and scrapped an album originally set to be Risk Revival due to the fact that it did not reflect what they felt they were capable of or how hard the band had worked. As a result, Hot Cross have turned in a satisfying successor to the fan favorite Cryonics. While it isn’t as technical as the direction their last EP Fair Trades and Farewells would suggest, the band, minus one guitarist, have trimmed down their approach to a more straightforward style, leaving the strongest aspects in tact. Although it may sound different, different is not always bad. At its core, this is a Hot Cross album through and through, and one that finally captures the intensity of their live show while realizing the band’s potential.
Don’t let the short acoustic introduction to the Risk Revival fool you because once this one gets going, there is no stopping and nary a chance to brace yourself for the blunt impact. The intro is simply the calm before the storm arrives with a hurricane force of guitars and rapid-fire drum beats that pound their way through your eardrums. “Exits and Trails” is a great lead off track that exemplifies everything that makes Hot Cross’ new album so refreshing. From the hammer-on filled guitars to Billy Werner’s passionate vocal delivery, any pre-release apprehension was quelled and transformed into excitement after hearing that familiar energy captured on tape. On a similar note, anyone worried about Casey Boland’s ability to act as sole guitarist need only take one listen to Risk Revival because his playing is one of the strongest aspects of the album. Boland works his way up and down the fretboard with ease crafting incredibly catchy guitar riffs while maintaining the unique, almost freeform style he has carved out through past releases. Look to “Existence” for an example of his tasteful, ever evolving riffs, which vary so often that there is no chance of getting bored. The crashing drums and Billy Werner’s memorable lyrics on “Turncoat Revolution” would make any supporter of The Fall Of Troy an instant Hot Cross fan. This particular track is also a pretty good example of the band’s new stripped down, riff oriented style. This slight divergence from technical hardcore to a more straight-ahead rock swagger may detract diehard fans of Cryonics, but it sounds like a natural progression and will be a welcome change to anyone with an open mind.
The biggest improvement in the four years since Cryonics is the production, both musically and vocally, which is spot on for the style of music that Hot Cross creates. Billy’s voice alone sounds drastically different than past releases, which could partly be due to a different, powerful vocal delivery that trades the throat shredding screams for a more audible yell. Whether or not you are crazy about this change, there is no denying that Billy puts forth an impressive performance both as a singer and a lyricist. His singing voice lends itself well to both punk and faster hardcore styles, blurring the lines that separate the two. He begs to be heard and succeeds. There is no letting up for an extended instrumental breakdown on this record, instead he preaches over top so no one can ignore what Werner has to say. It’s not just that the lyrics are memorable, which is the case for a lot of bands in the genre, it’s that they are delivered in such a way that you believe every single word coming out of his mouth. There is no way that Werner is being anything but honest and true to his ideals set forth through his writing. This genuineness is what elevates Risk Revival above the rest of the hardcore pack. Time was taken to insure that every note was carefully constructed and arranged in its rightful place, and even if it though it took almost four years to come to fruition, the wait was well worth it after experiencing the final product. If you are a fan of hardcore or punk do not let this one pass by. Hot Cross are back and ready to sonically kick you in the head.