If you weren’t familiar with ‘crossover thrash’, by the time you’ve finished your first mass at Iron Reagan’s Crossover Ministry, you’ll not only be up to speed, but likely a new convert. For those who are familiar with the quintet (comprised of members of the likes of Municipal Waste, Cannabis Corpse and Darkest Hour) and their body of work, their third album will further cement them as one of the sharpest acts at the cutting edge of thrash.
There’s a word you can apply to Crossover Ministry that sums it all up pretty nicely – relentless. From the tempos to the frantic musicianship and the sneering attitude, it’s unforgiving stuff. Opener ‘A Dying World’ tumbles downwards with clattering drums, locking into a merciless groove that has Tony Foresta’s shouted vocals embedded rhythmically (not unlike Jens Kidman of Meshuggah, but obviously less ‘metal’) before they’re buried under a cascade of blazing solo work ripped straight out of the ‘80s.
‘You Never Learn’ is short and sharp, slightly messy and gouging. ‘Grim Business’ evokes Metallica with its’ scything riffs and rapid snare work, racing away into focussed chugging. ‘Dead With My Friends’ is a surprising sidestep, creepy piano notes metering out a haphazard broken waltz, before a tightly wound chugging groove sets in, peppered with vitriolic shouting, conjuring up the bands’ hardcore slant.
‘No Sell’ passes in the blink of an eye, a breathless blast akin to Napalm Death’s ‘You Suffer’. ‘Condition Evolution’ is ballsy and muscular, dual layered guitars snaking around each other, forced apart by clattering snare. ‘Fuck The Neighbours’ is everything great about cheeseball party thrash, with big gang shouts of “Fuck your neighbours, fuck your yard, the more that you complain the more we’ll go hard” begging for a scream-along. ‘Power Of The Skull’ weighs in at under a minute, but still manages to dole out savage, thuggish riffery.
The title track bristles with rebellious, bluesy swagger, swinging between thrashy galloping and slower, heavier sections. That marks the halfway point – nine down, nine to go. ‘More War’ again dips into Metallica-esque waters, hard panned guitar crunch added weight by hefty bass rumbles. ‘Blatant Violence’ lives up to its title, punchy chords and blisteringly fast tom work battering the listener thoroughly. ‘Parents Of Tomorrow’ is a six second slap to the face of manic, screeching tremolo.
‘Bleed the Fifth’ broods away with rippling bass before upping the tempo and dialling into a triumphant fist-pumper of a riff. ‘Megachurch’ is an odd one, semi-tuneful cleans and atonal guitars troubling the waters a little. ‘Shame Spiral’ is full of menacing Slayer style chugging and urgent, snarling drives. ‘Dogsnotgods’ pounds away with buzzsaw tone and lyrics that urge you to jab a middle finger into the eye of the establishment.
‘Eat Or Be Eaten’ is another departure, a stuttering electro noisescape that grinds away, displaced by female vocals and forceful, stabbing guitars. ‘Twist Your Fate’ closes the show with scrappy turns of speed, guitar dive bombs and knife edge grooves, before fading out into askew church organ vamps and explosions.
Whether you’re a thrasher or not, Iron Reagan will take you to church with Crossover Ministry. Their sound captures the energy, aggression and occasional schlockyness of the 80’s thrash heyday, while maintaining a firm grounding in modernity in terms of production values and a willingness to mix things up. Polished, focussed and spiked with angular hardcore ferocity, it’s a record that is consummately professionally assembled but still carries the rawness and grit you’d expect. While an eighteen track length will probably see the slightly less realised tracks glossed over by all but the most ardent fans, but this is absolutely the only criticism you can levy against the record. Energising and attention grabbing, Crossover Ministry is the thrash baptism we sorely needed.