Thursday, 28 June 2012

Hot Cross

Hot Cross. Ah, Hot Cross. Hot Cross were a hardcore/screamo band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, active from 2000-2007, when they went on an "indefinite hiatus"/"indefinitely inactive" (a.k.a Fugazi'd us). Regardless of that, what they did during their time as a band was absolutely incredible, and integral in the development of hardcore/screamo/post-hardcore/punk, whichever tag you wish to use.

Hot Cross were one of two bands (the other being Off Minor) formed from the remnants of the legendary screamo band Saetia. Along with Saetia, Hot Cross' roster included members of Joshua Fit For Battle, You And I, Neil Perry, Off Minor (Matt Smith was initially in Off Minor, but switched to Hot Cross like a dirty two-timer) and even Interpol (Greg Drudy, drummer of both Hot Cross and Saetia, as well as founder of Level Plane Records was their original drummer). With the exception of the obvious, all of HC's (greatest initials ever) members are alumni of amazing screamo bands. Yet HC did not exactly stick to that sound. I like to describe them as a band that blended the energy of hardcore with the cathartic aspect of screamo and the technical prowess of math rock. Take that as you will. Whatever it is, it's certainly a deperarture from what they were renowned for. Their first release, A New Set Of Lungs, doesn't stray too far from the "screamo" sound, or at least is the closest resemblance to it in their discography. However, key elements that Hot Cross are known for begin to emerge. The most obvious of which is Billy Werner's vocal style. In Saetia, he basically altered between an all-out scream and softly spoken phrases. In Hot Cross, his vocals usually don't make such drastic changes, yet he keeps things diverse. For the majority of their work, his voice totters between a sing and a scream, basically combining the two distinct vocal styles of Saetia. HC's earlier work leans more towards the scream-y aspect, and the latter portion towards the sing-y part, but throughout their tenure he retains a sense of both. Hot Cross also commonly uses backing vocals to add a whole other dynamic in addition to Billy's voice. This is incredibly effective and expands their palette of brilliance into entirely new territory.

A progession is also quite evident in the music as well. Like I previously mentioned, A New Set Of Lungs features the frantic, jagged, dissonant sound that many of the members' previous efforts included, but with added attributes that become more prominent which each release, and defined HC's sound. Especially the guitar work. For the majority of their career, they had two guitarists. That is normal and expected in most hardcore/screamo bands. However, the way HC utilized two guitars is absolutely amazing. They'd play off each other, switching between power chords/octaves to intricate, angular lead lines comprised of a flurry of hammer-ons and pull-offs interlocking and harmonizing. True fretboard fury. This is an integral component of their sound, and a huge contribution to the awesomeness that makes up Hot Cross. This is probably best exemplified on their EP Fair Trades And Farewells (my personal favourite release), but is also quite present on their first LP Cryonics, as well as their splits around that time. However, for their final release and second LP Risk Revival, the band had to fare with a sole guitarist, since Josh Jakubowski had left. Even without him, this is still a great album. There's still tons of great guitar work, and even an element of experimentation, as evidenced by the track "Resent Resist Rebuild" or the acoustic bits in "Exits And Trails" and "Finance Fuels The Sickness At Heart". Unfortunately, they broke up (or at least might as well as have) shortly after this album (it was released on February 20, 2007, they announced their parting of ways on July 6, 2007). No specific reason was given, but I'd say it's safe to assume there was some inner turmoil of sorts.

Wow, I completely forget to mention the bass and drums. I must commend Greg Drudy and Matt Smith for being absolutely phenomenal at what they do. They keep the energy up while the guitars are flitting about as such a single, solid unit. Their parts are always perfect because they're not seemingly complex like the guitars often are, but not simple and straight-forward either. This balance is unbelievable, and when meshed in with the guitars and Werner's voice, they create a pulsating beast only known as Hot Cross. Speaking of Werner, I should also point out HC's lyrical style. They're certainly still personal, but are also very sociopolitically aware, which make for a great contrast. Werner has a very poetic sensibility to this writing, which makes his words very passionate. Coupled with his delivery, you have a very powerful singer.

Hot Cross released two full-lengths, Cryonics and Risk Revival, two EPs, A New Set Of Lungs and Fair Trades And Farewells, and three splits with Light The Fuse And Run, Lickgoldensky, and The Holy Shroud. I also included a live radio session they did with WLUW, a college radio station based in Loyola Chicago University, from 2004.

1. Born On The Cusp
2. History Fell In The Heart Broke Open
3. Between Minutes And Miles
4. Lend Me Your Brain (I'm Building An Idiot)
5. Putting The Past Right
6. 4A:030401
7. Finger Redux

1. Hot Cross - In Memory Of Morvern
2. Hot Cross -  The Eye Is A Tricky Machine
3. Light The Fuse And Run - Ghost Town
4. Light The Fuse And Run - Instrumentstwo

1. Fortune Teller
2. A Weekend Spent Askance
3. Pretty Picture Of A Broken Face
4. A Tale For The Ages
5. Dissertation: 14
6. In Memory Of Morvern
7. Patience And Prudence
8. Frozen By Tragedy
9. Figure Eight
10. Requiescat

1. Hot Cross - A Voice Turned Vacant
2. Hot Cross - Patience And Prudence
3. Lickgoldensky - Little Dots
4. Lickgoldensky - Gordon Conrad

1. Prepare/Repair
2. Solanka
3. Throw Collars To The Wind
4. Better A Corpse Than A Nun
5. Two Cripples Dancing
6. Consonants

Live On WLUW (2004)
1. Putting The Past Right
2. Better A Corpse Than A Nun
3. The Eye Is A Tricky Machine
4. Prepare/Repair
5. Lend Me Your Brain (I'm Building An Idiot)
6. Solanka
7. Pretty Picture Of A Broken Face

1. Hot Cross - Tacoma
2. The Holy Shroud - Clear The Room

Risk Revival (2007)
1. Exits And Trails
2. Turncoat Revolution
3. Resent Resist Rebuild
4. Fire The Foundations
5. Cardiac Silence
6. Kill The Name
7. Silence Is Failure
8. Fatefully
9. Existence
10. Rejoinder
11. Finance Fuels The Sickness
12. Blame Truth
13. Scrape Wisdom


  1. wheres the download?

  2. click name album

  3. Love your descriptions, I always read 'em before scrolling to the albums. Keep it up, bro.

  4. Thanks for that live records, that's so overwhelming.