Album Review: Iron Reagan – “Crossover Ministry”

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I don’t deal in astrology. The practice of metaphysics and premonition sit on a dusty shelf of my misspent youth, next to mood rings, crystals, Magic Eight Balls and a tattered copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. What I’m saying is, I don’t believe in prophecy, in the mystical alignment of stars and portents heralding a hidden hand, a destined confluence of events. And yet…can it truly be coincidence that now, when the last two weeks have seemingly brought one harbinger of the apocalypse after the other, that we the people are blessed with Crossover Ministry, the new album from Iron Reagan? Am I to next pay more mind to the rain of frogs making its way inland from the eastern seaboard? Time will tell…

I tend to go back and forth over whether I prefer the crossover/D.R.I. homage of Iron Reagan or the more straight ahead high top sneaker and thrash attack of Municipal Waste. Right when I acknowledge I wasn’t a huge fan of 2014’s The Tyranny of Will, I remember how much I loved the Spoiled Identity EP, which only came out a few months earlier. There’s no denying everyone involved (joining Tony Foresta and Landphil Hall from Municipal Waste are Ryan Parrish formerly of Darkest Hour, Rob Skotis of Hellbear and Mark Bronzino) play with a feverish intent and tightness that only comes from years of hammering that shit down in shitty venues across the globe, the question I usually bump again is: just how many different ways can you attack a specific vibe before you start to hit diminishing returns? It’s been five years and we have three full lengths, an “EP” that’s just as long, a demo, and numerous splits. That’s almost 70 songs by my count, so if Crossover Ministry is simply going to be more of the same, well…I’ve already got more than enough to tide me over, so expectations are going to be high.

“Dying World” kicks things off on the right note. With mixing duties once again handled by Kurt Ballou the sound is tight and dry without the slightly muddy and lower-frequency bog that plagued (for me) The Tyranny of Will. It’s mean, spiteful and jumps right into “You Never Learn” which then leads into “Grim Business” and we’ve hit three winners in a row and it’s only been about six minutes. “Dead With My Friends” slows it down a bit before jumping into a gnarly gallop, and things continue on a great keel until “Fuck the Neighbors” nearly slams everything to a grinding halt with how stupid it is. It’s amazing how something that’s not even two minutes long just throws everything off. The title track tries to get things back on course with a bit of an S.O.D. stomp but it isn’t until the back half of the album that Crossover Ministry returns to its former glory. Thankfully with an album of this nature that’s only like another 10 minutes, but it can still seem like forever when songs blur in and out with little to differentiate them.

That return for me comes with “Megachurch” which stops the S.O.D./D.R.I. worship and jumps straight into Suicidal Tendencies territory, complete with Mike Miur-ish vocals (if that’s Foresta doing an impression it’s great – sadly no liner notes with the promo). “Dogs Not Gods” is another left field trip that takes a more scuzzy lo-fi approach and shows the band definitely has something more to offer than another couple dozen imitations of each other. The entirety of “Eat or Be Eaten” with its electronic 8-bit opening and female vocals are my favorite 32 seconds on the whole album.  And closer “Twist Your Fate” brings us back to the epic agression of the opening song, tying the album off in a sweaty circle pit of slam dance fun.

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Iron Reagan

With 18 songs (bringing the total catalog up to over 80 songs) there’s bound to be a “more of the same” feel to Crossover Ministry, but the few surprises on the album make it just varied enough that I’d make sure I had it the next time I have to bang my head to get the news of the day out of my circulation. Your mileage may vary.

-Chris


Crossover Ministry will be available February 3 on Relapse Records. For more information on Iron Reagan visit their Facebook page.

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