The first three tracks of Tau Cross’s new 2 x LP Pillar of Fire are straight up post-crust type ragers in the vein of Zygote, heavy with crunchy guitars and helmed by singer Rob “The Baron” Miller’s raspy, Lemmy-esque vocals. The first track on Pillar of Fire, “Raising Golem,” has a twinge of Killing Joke’s “Pssyche” going on with the main guitar riff. And except for three of the tracks on the album, there is a vibe of hard rockin’ Motörhead worship throughout – no surprise given the common musical background of most of Tau Cross’ members in the crust scene. Remember Amebix‘ “Right to Ride”? That’s a good sonic reference point for what is going on here – heavy biker-sounding rock but with a much better production than was ever available to some of the members’ previous crusty projects (singer Rob “The Baron” Miller is listed as the co-producer for the LP, and he’s done a damn fine job). Lyrics touch upon common Amebix and Tau Cross themes: the existential state of man’s spiritual and primeval side coming in to conflict with the soul-draining forces of modern industry, technology, and global political chicanery.
Tau Cross are a six-piece on this LP, too, unusual for a band these days but beneficial in this case for the full, mature sound that the band brings to the record. Three of the eleven tracks are acoustic, folk-ish numbers with synth texturing thrown in for atmosphere – neofolk in the real sense, especially given the lyrical disdain for modernity. (And am I crazy or in these more subdued tracks, as on the “Pillar of Fire” title track, do Rob’s vocals remind a bit of David Bowie or Peter Murphy in their quieter moments?) Track 4, with the topical title “Deep State,” showcases some guitar-work reminiscent of John Christ’s guitar on the early Danzig LPs – good stuff. Lyrics have repeated reference to knights, swords, kings, the sea, sacred rites, profanation, fallen gods, the unholy – mostly as allegory to highlight an ongoing conflict between the mystically-inclined instincts of man contrasted to our modern era of mind-numbing wage slavery, consumerism, and earth-destroying industrial development. The song “RFID” portrays a world choking in the strangling grip of omnipresent surveillance and marketing technology.
As many know, singer Rob left Amebix in the late 1980s to live as a swordmaker on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It’s easy to imagine that many of the themes in Tau Cross’s lyrics came from thoughts Rob had while working there at Castle Keep. Voivod drummer Michael “Away” Langevin does a spectacular job providing the proper percussive punch for all the tracks on the LP, and the dual guitar work of Jon Misery and Andy Lefton (of Misery and War//Plague, respectively) keeps things crunching and chugging along at a good clip. Tau Cross have delivered a well-produced, fiery metal LP heavy with the themes that fans of members’ past projects will be familiar with – war, the industrial-surveillance state, the degradation of humanity, all of it ensconced in a kind of English naturalist-metaphysical philosophy. The dreaded “sophomore LP curse” has been deftly avoided here by Tau Cross; if anything, I think this is a better album than their self-titled debut work a few years ago.
Pillar of Fire comes out on July 21 on Relapse Records. Reviewed above is the 11-song CD version of the album. The 2xLP (vinyl) has three bonus tracks.