Sometimes all a situation calls for is some old school aggression. As such, bands like Battlecross will always have their place in my library for when the timing’s just right. The Michigan extreme thrashers have made this precise form of metal their calling card for more than a decade now. Running off plenty of momentum from a successful run of tours over the last few years, the band’s back with their fourth studio album, Rise to Power, and deliver yet another solid collection of tracks, but this time with a bit more maturity.
It wasn’t long ago that I wrote a Retrospective piece on the band’s last album, War of Will. It was a relatively brief, yet ferocious collection that was quite angst-driven and an absolute blast to listen to. It’s only been two years since that release, but it seems to be two years well utilized. While some of the simplistically sharp ferocity that made War of Will so enjoyable has diminished, it’s been replaced with more creative song writing and a much deeper sound and context, from the music to the lyrics.
We’re introduced to this immediately between the opening two tracks: “Scars” and “Not Your Slave.” They maintain the same Battlecross pace, but hold just a little bit more weight. This, coupled with fuller production, makes for a more impressive overall sound, giving the album some much-needed depth. Tracks like “Absence” and “Bound By Fear” show impressively heavy opening riffs before breaking into a barrage of thrash metal leads and relentless percussion. Digging even further still, the impressively melodic openings to “Blood & Lies” and the closing track, “The Path,” showcase yet another element Battlecross is willing to experiment with. It’s worth noting that many of the faster, more technical moments show more maturity as well. The leads are crisper, the solos far more complete, and the sound overall just has a bit more complexity. What I’m getting at is this: their sound’s developed in right ways, and shows more creativity and quality overall.
In among those positives, however, there are still some weaker moments. In the past, Battlecross offset their blitzing verses with catchier choruses that helped their music stick with you. And while Rise to Power is certainly heavier and more complex, that component is missing on some tracks. For example, “The Climb” could use such a bit more cohesion, and the jagged chorus could be a place to start. There’s no real flaw in them mixing up their style, but this is an element that would add to the simple listenability of things. These tracks are all relatively short and sweet, so the faster they stick with you, the better.
Furthermore, some leads are almost too old school thrash, to the point where they seems to clash with the rest of the album. This is an album, and a band, defined by their extreme take on thrash, with just a bit of melodeath thrown in. But when you hear the opening bars of, say, “Spoiled,” it feels overly categorized in a more classic sound. The rest of the song is fine, but these moments seem just a touch out of place. All minor things in the grand scheme of things, however. So let’s keep that in mind.
All told, Rise to Power is definitely a solid album from start to finish. It’s got everything that’s made Battlecross as popular as they are to this point, with just the right amount of sound development and structural creativity to carry them forward. While it certainly isn’t a perfect album, and there are moments that work better than others, it’s still a quality listen overall.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”