Mongrel’s Cross – Arcana, Scrying and Revelation Review

I was but a mere Angry Metal Applicant when Mongrel’s Cross released their sophomore full-length Psalter of the Royal Dragon Court during the summer of 2018, and I can still remember sitting down to read Mark Z.‘s review. I was still in the diaper stage of exploring black metal, and having already enjoyed the output of their Australian countrymates Deströyer 666, I happily indulged in Mongrel’s Cross’ epic, thrashened version of the style. From there, I eventually moved on to find true love in the form of bands like Bewitcher and Blackevil, cementing good blackened speed and/or thrash as one of my favorite metal niches. Thus, given the unfortunate fact that Mark Z. finds himself occupied elsewhere, I was eager to throw my goofy hat into the blackened ring for review rights for 2020’s follow up Arcana, Scrying and Revelation. Now boasting Absu’s Proscriptor McGovern on vocals, Mongrel’s Cross seems poised to permanently blast from obscurity, so let us pay witness to the launch.

Arcana may not be a huge departure from Psalter, but the black metal aspect of the Mongrel’s Cross sound has certainly been enhanced even further. This is most obvious in Proscriptor’s vocal contribution. Where guitarist and former lead vocalist Grand Mongrel had a gruff, almost death metal approach, Proscriptor brings his undeniably black metal croaking shouts to the table. This goes hand-in-hand with an increased focus on shimmering guitar leads and a brighter production, making Arcana a far more trebly affair than Psalter. Embedded single and album opener “Suffer the Witch to Live” demonstrates all of these changes straightaway, but also shows the band adhering to their fondness of the marching pagan rhythms of Bathory.

The emphasis on more complex guitar work continues on “Fate of the Grail Pt. 1,” a track whose tremolos slither in more directions than Medusa’s hairdo, and on “A Magician’s Prayer” where the leads take on a strong Iron Maiden melodicism on the song’s back half. That focus on heavy metal guitar is felt on much of Arcana, with “What the Cards May Tell” leaning heavily into classic metal harmonies and “As a Being Undead” incorporating loads of melody into its violent blackened thrash attack. Overall, Grand Mongrel’s and fellow guitarist Goet Euryn’s six-string excretions end up taking MVP honors among the album’s performances.

While there might not have been a large musical shift between Arcana and its predecessor, the production makes them sound as if they were produced by two entirely different bands. Both albums clock in at DR 8, but Arcana’s treble-heavy presentation makes me long for the beefier strength of Psalter. The production here is certainly not bad and arguably fits Mongrel’s Cross’ journey further into the realm of pure black metal better, but I can’t help but feel that Arcana lands less powerfully and malevolently than their previous effort. I’m also not sure that Proscriptor is a step up for the band in the vocal department. His croaks definitely push Mongrel’s Cross into standard black metal territory, but that’s not necessarily a good thing given that part of Psalter’s charm was the way it bridged several genres without truly residing in any one of them. Potential issues aside, Arcana still lands as a competent 38 minute blackened journey, and standouts include “Suffer the Witch to Live,” “A Magician’s Prayer,” and “As a Being Undead.”

Well, I can’t say that Arcana, Scrying and Revelation lives up to its predecessor’s success, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Your thoughts on the reduced thrash, the album’s production, and the addition of Proscriptor’s vocals might differ from mine, potentially adding some mileage to your experience with the new version of Mongrel’s Cross. But how should I know? It’s not like I have a crystal ball or something.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hell’s Headbangers
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 27th, 2020

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