I'm not even sure if it's necessary to look for black/thrash outside of Australia and Norway anymore. There are so many bands embracing this abrasive style of metal today, that there is undoubtedly going to be hundreds that just suck. However, it seems like Australia is incapable of producing a sub-par band and it's almost as if there is some kind of test each band has to pass before they're allowed to unleash a single demo. Whatever it is, it's working because Mongrel's Cross is easily one of the best I've come across from the country, and if their country of origin wasn't enough to sell them to you, maybe the fact that they're also signed to one of the best labels out today in Hell's Headbangers will get your mouth watering. "The Sins of Aquarius" is the band's debut full-length and it's probably one of the best debut albums for a new band in my recollection as just about everything on this record is amazing.
While many bands of this style focus on being fast or evil, Mongrel's Cross' music is incredibly riff-oriented. All seven songs on this album feature at least one riff that will get the listener's headbanging or awaken the urge for them to pull out their air guitar. Whether it's the ferocious tremolo sections on "Rabid Inception," the midpaced violence on "Lead Them From the Promised Land," or the metalpunk tendencies on "Indulge the Temple," there is something for everyone. And it's not just the riffs that make "The Sins of Aquarius" as brilliant as it is, but also the group's ability to create an atmosphere that is raw and reminiscent of other notable acts of the scene today such as Ketzer or Nekromantheon. The main component of Mongrel's Cross' music that separates them from so many other acts today, though, is the terrific songwriting, a quality that a lot of black/thrash bands forsake in order to come across as "kvlt" and "evil." The shortest track on this record is four and a half minutes, while the rest of the songs meander on a bit longer, but the songwriting is top-notch so the need to change the song due to repetition or boredom never arises and this couldn't be more evident than on the epic "When the Dragon Gives Birth," a song full of shifting dynamics, stellar riffs and beautiful melodies.
Again, everything on this record just clicked perfectly for me. The vocals are ugly and aggressive as they should be for this style, but there also the occasional death metal growls and lows that fit in with the music perfectly (see "Revelations Transpire"). The drumming is another highlight as there are so many great fills that compliment the riffs and everything else tremendously. The double-bass pummeling and blast beats are all placed throughout at just the right amount, never overdoing it. The solos are also terrific (which is actually pretty rare in this style of music) as they blend the right amount of shredding and melody making them more memorable. "The Sins of Aquarius" is undoubtedly the best record I've heard all year surpassing other excellent albums by bands like Charon, Ketzer, and Aura Noir, and until I get my hands on the new Gospel of the Horns release, I'm sure this will definitely be the pride of the black/thrash subgenre in 2012.
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"The Sins of Aquarius"
"Lead Them From the Promised Land"
4.6/5 or 92%.