Cross Country, Crossfit, Crossover


Skanks and Planks

This year, I made the same unrealistic New Year’s Resolution that everyone does: To write more articles about crossover thrash. To help me stay focused, I adopted a less-common secondary resolution to exercise more and get in shape, which should be a cakewalk to stick with. I mean, I don’t need to buy any equipment or even leave my house, so there’s literally no barrier to me doing crunches and pushups in my own living room. Not like the exhausting routine of constantly researching and buying new records, doing hours of active listening to see if they’re remarkable enough to cover, and then making my ass sore from sitting around writing about them. After my first home session (inspired by perhaps my only fitness hero), the combination of shoddy kickboxing, worn-out sneakers, and skidding skate-punk beats felt like an uncanny simulation of my finest concert memories. This is probably what it feels like to be a polar bear in a zoo, playing with a beef-stuffed watermelon. Except soon I will be crushing that watermelon between my thighs.

Observing Madness – Rake-Off

First we hit the streets of Rome, with probably our finest all-rounder. I will never not fall for divebombs over a fat power chord, and this record features its first of many at just over a minute in. Rake-Off‘s bass tone is burly as hell, ringing out with lots of ripples while the guitars chop together like two chefs knives making mincemeat. It’s a top-notch production job, which helps the odd moments of melodicism to pop out even more. “Killing Machine” has some shimmy to it in the breaks and signoffs, but stomps ably into a steel-toed groove only moments later. “Eternal Curse” features a gravity well of a breakdown that slingshots around into an equally tasty harmonized lead. 20-odd minutes of crispy thrash, and a fun little Anthrax cover for the ride home.

Best For: Knee strikes, low side kicks, and shadow boxing, imagining how all this will be worth it when you finally kick someone’s ass for the first time.

Jellyfish – Xtrueder

Definitely on the deathier end of hardcore, Xtrueder might want to take a second pass at this EP’s title. Jellyfish are known for being squishy and brainless, while this little release is cinder-block solid and has at least a little self-awareness to balance the bludgeoning. The lead song, “Medusa”, has a punchy anchor riff turning over in the engine, and “Lighthouse” gets a bit of disso in there, hugging the ground like a treaded Sno-CAT. There’s just the right amount of floppy-stringed buzz to the bass to seal in that swaggering feel, and even a bit of wah-wah to tinge the spartan breakdown. Honestly, I could stand for more of that. You also love to see a band singing their native tongue, with all the texture of non-Anglo rolls and hushes to bring some new phoneme-fodder for the spittle-flinging vocals. Not bad for a band photo posed atop what I can only guess is a Lada (I don’t know cars, please don’t correct me).

Best For: Squats, duh.

Hazardous – Envenomed

Feels bad to be a downer here, but I expected a little bit more. I was late to the party on Envenomed‘s first record, the abrasive Venomous Decay, but instantly found myself bit and infected by the urgency and tightly wound guitar and drum interplay. Yet, I was let-down by their second release, Enfermedad Imparable. With this surprise little quarantine EP, I was willing to gamble and see if they’d got it back together, but alas. It all feels like a bit of a jumble, killing half of the opening track with a creaking, sluggish attempt at an ominous approach, but when it jumps into its fast, heavy main section, the mix actually sounds thinner than it did before the drums arrived. I could generously call it raw, but it feels more spoiled. “Adenocarcinoma” comes the closest to their best material, I think, but I think Envenomed has lost my attention after all.

Best For: Realizing how rusty you still are at pushups and doing a couple of knee pushups instead, as a compromise.

These next two are both re-issues from a couple of years ago, but I just came across them the first time and couldn’t resist throwing them on the pile.

Drunk Freak – End All/King Norman

Bringing in more of that rock’n’roll shimmy to this thrash party is Drunk Freak, an 8-pack first released 2020 on Bad Moon Rising in Taiwan, now coming to you from Toxic Death 666 for reasons I could not ascertain. Some pregame boilermakers greet you from Tokyo’s End All, with all the old time speed metal squeal you dig, roiling around with choppy chromatic progression and crawling bar chords. It’s a nice digression from our earlier choices, not nearly as aggro but plenty of hype, and easier to howl along with at the same time. King Norman‘s portion is a bit more sloshed, a few shots deeper in terms of production and reduced speed, making up for it in steadier pounding groove, maybe helping you to cool down after using up your reserves on the first leg of this split. Which is a polite way of saying that End All really steal the show.

Best For: Cranking out your cardio, just when you need your second wind and decide to start pacing yourself halfway through.

Toxic War – Mindtaker

It’s tight, it’s played to perfection, and clearly knows exactly what it’s doing. But seriously, look at this cover and tell me how many original ideas you think this record will have. It’s probably the same as its favorite E-string fret: 0. Wish I could call it a Municipal Waste rip-off, but aside from the art, Toxic War belongs more in the tradition of Lich King. But honestly, zero ambition is not an insurmountable impediment to me, at least in the world of orthodox thrash. I don’t down records like this to enrich myself, I do it for the same reason I still eat the mini-tacos at 7-11 even though one of them gave me appendicitis: I love to abandon pretense and wallow in what I know I am at heart. I will kick this record around like flip-brim that has fallen to the floor of the pit, but I’ll still pick it up and wear it out of the venue with a grin on my face. There is no downside to loving this shit and seeing if a band like this finds themselves a real identity in the future. Even Lich King got meaner a few records in.

Best For: Giving up, cracking a cold one and ordering a pizza because you’re just going to keep being the same old burnout you were last year.

Takin’ the vest and the crest out for a little tilly, ain’t we? Hitting the pit and riling her into a real donnybrook, eh? Just tearing rippers, bro. Just ripping chuggies, bro. Chugging mad skanks, bro. Just skanking moshers, bro. Straight-up moshing blasters, bro.

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