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Wednesday, 11 October 2006 00:00

Southern Cross set to test its metal

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By Chris Cooper

If you can imagine an even more ticked-off Phil Anselmo fronting a hybrid of COC and Black Sabbath, you’ll have an idea of where mountain metal outfit Southern Cross is coming from.

 

The pedigree of the band is impressive, with a lineup that includes former members of well-respected local thrashers Pride Before A Fall and Ironside. The varied influences are a plus as well; bassist Adam Ranke’s old school punk background and keep-it-simple approach compliments siblings Jenna (guitar) and drummer Max DeGrove’s wide ranging interests in anything from classic country to the blackest metal out there.

Vocalist Seth Uldrick’s ability to growl, scream, screech and actually sing as well hints at a wider palette than most metal singers draw from, and considering just how quickly things have gelled for the group is an indication of one of the most important aspects of a successful band chemistry.

The South Is Rising opens with creepy little slide interlude preceding “A Fascination With The Morbidly Hillbilly,” which turns the sludge-o-meter all the way up to 11 from the downbeat. This isn’t delicately crafted progressive rock — it’s a gritty howl of noise that comes straight from the gut, and borrows as much from early blues based British metal as it does Pantera’s modern Texas brutality.

And it’s the looming shadow that band cast on the world of metal as a whole that seems to darken the majority of Southern Cross’s raison d’etre. Uldrick’s vocal delivery often so closely resembles the former Pantera front man that it’s sometimes a bit disorienting — it’s as if Seth does Phil better than Phil does Phil.

But since nobody knows what to expect out of the remaining members of that Texas super group these days, it stands to reason that someone would come along to pick up that torch and run with it. Seeing just where Southern Cross takes it will be the intriguing part.

The tones are decidedly not the “new metal” fare — though there’s no shortage of chunkiness in the guitars. Guitarist Jenna DeGrove goes for more of a classic, mid-heavy sound throughout the album, recalling some of the late Randy Rhoads’ work in tone, layered tracking and well composed soloing.

There’s no mindless shredding here, indicating a thoughtful sense of restraint that’s often absent in the rock world. In fact, as a whole The South Is Rising has a much more raw, stripped down feel than I’d expected, which all the better conveys the sense of sheer heaviness music like this requires.

Case in point: album closer “Are You Horrified,” a vicious slice of riffage that moves through several tempo changes, high speed thrash and a short but furious solo from DeGrove. It’s one of the most powerful statements of what the band is about on the entire album. Quite impressive.

In a relatively short amount of time, Southern Cross has developed a considerable fan base through steady gigging and assertive promotion, but it will be the strength of their music that takes them the rest of the way. Notably, it’ll soon be taking them all the way to Texas with a slot in a three-day slamfest at The Sanctuary in San Antonio.

On Oct. 13, Southern Cross will join Thousand Year Reign, Aux and Blood For Ashes at the Waynesville Armory for what is likely to be one scary Black Friday show, plus it’s just a little bit closer to home than the Lone Star state. The following weekend (Oct. 21) you can catch another stellar batch of WNC metal at the same venue; The Fall Freakfest will include Cerberus A.D., Hoss, Ironside and more.

And there you go — more heavy music than you could possibly shake a stick at, choke a horse with and/or ever ask for, all brought to you locally and within the next two weeks. I would end this with some clever quip, but frankly I’m feeling so replete with metalosity that I can’t think of anything to say.

(Chris Cooper can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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