Supergroups make me weary. For every Down, Vhöl, or Borknagar that comes our way, we get subjected to bands that don’t vary much (if at all) from their more established main groups. The prospect of checking out yet another supergroup doesn’t exactly get my blood pumping, no matter how highly acclaimed that group is promoted by the critics and fans. Some major exceptions can be made, however. When you take Amebix‘s bassist and throat, Rob “The Baron” Miller, and Voivod‘s Michel “Away” Langevin, well, you’re gonna do the smart thing and at least give that band a cursory listen. Add guitarists John Misery (Misery) and Andy Lefton (War//Plague), and you’ve got yourself one hell of a post-punk proposition, and Tau Cross delivers on that front spectacularly on their self-titled debut.
Reviews from other websites have ballyhooed Tau Cross as “an awesome Killing Joke record,” and while there is some truth to it (and there are far worse bands to be compared to), it’s both damning and lazy, because there’s enough uniqueness to the album t0 allow it to stand on its own just fine. Ragers like “Fire in the Sky” and the Motorhead-y “Stonecracker” may contain the primal urgency that Amebix and Killing Joke are known for, but they both feel modern and fun. Yes, “fun” is a great way to describe the overall atmosphere (but maybe not mood, which I’ll get to in a bit) of the album, as it sounded like the band enjoyed creating the album. “We Control the Fear,” an acoustic romp questioning religion’s kind nature, has a very jaunty feel to it with Away’s military march, The Baron’s howl and powerful strumming.
Above all, though, the album works because of The Baron’s voice. He doesn’t so much sing (with exceptions) as he does howl or breathe fire. “Hangmans Hyll,” the closest one could make to the Killing Joke references, goes from “driving and powerful” to “straight-up anthemic” when Miller goes from his clean voice to his raspy howls halfway through. It’s his moodier numbers, though, that hit home the most. Closer “The Devil Knows His Own” is a reflective ballad about redemption and wanting to right wrongs, made the more powerful by Miller’s distinctive singing and backing female vocals by The Baroness (his wife? Significant other?). And “Sons of the Soil,” an ode to those who have fallen in war, is easily a personal Song of the Year candidate. The way Miller hisses “And I remember when we ruled the world/and every oath we swore in blood/the day they brought you home” filled my heart with sorrow to the point of tears. Yep, that powerful.
I’m really pissed that I discovered this album late this year, but better now than never. In fact, it may have flung itself upon my Top Ten(ish) list in the little time I’ve been listening to it. If you want to check out some incredible music by a band made up of legends, you could do far worse than Tau Cross. Hunt this down.
Tracks to check: “Lazarus,” “Stonecracker,” “We Control the Fear,” “Hangmans Hyll,” “Sons of the Soil,” “The Devil Knows His Own”