TAU CROSS are a band formed by legendary AMEBIX vocalist Rob (The Baron) Miller and VOIVOD drummer Michel (Away) Langevin alongside members of MISERY and WAR//PLAGUE. This pedigree alone suggests that any musical endeavours the band offers up are likely to be exceptional. This suspicion is supported by the band’s self-titled first effort TAU CROSS which proved itself to not only be one of the best records of 2015 but also to only get better the more one listened to it. An eloquent and progressive record that still retained a feeling of charming simplicity, an incredibly tough line to walk. Was the record just a one off spark in the pan or is TAU CROSS on its way to attaining the lofty heights of its constituent parts?
Openers Raising Golem starts off well with audible bass and the iconic rasp of The Baron’s voice sure to please fans of his previous band. There is a sense of urgency in the track and it isn’t afraid to rock out at points. An encouraging start. Bread and Circuses follows on from this with a message that provides commentary without forcing it upon listeners and in a manner that will stand the test of time. A slower track that could possibly have been better placed in the running order, it’s by no means weak but suffers from being slightly forgettable compared to its peers. The pace is picked back up by the third track On The Water which tells the tale of sailors adrift and features a brilliant riff along with a catchy chorus as it’s centrepiece.
Deep State is another fast paced track with its simple yet catchy riff’s making it difficult not to nod heads along too. This mood is abruptly ended with the title track of the record, Pillar Of Fire which showcases the variety of songwriting on the album by being heavily reliant on an acoustic guitar and the deep introspective lyrics that paint vivid pictures of the topic’s addressed throughout the album. The pace is then picked back up by Killing The King which features a more traditional song structure and is arguably the most accessible track on the record with the drums urging it forwards with a pounding beat sure to delight many. In contrast A White Horse throws the simplicity of its predecessor aside to instead demonstrate the more progressive capabilities the band have to offer.
As has been mentioned several times this record TAU CROSS like to mix the pace of tracks and their styles across the record, which is either a brilliant way to demonstrate their versatility as songwriters or a slightly jarring experience as listeners are forced to adapt with each change and sometimes both together. Either way, as with their previous record, it must be empathised that this is a record that must be actively listened to get the most out of it. A perfect example of this is The Big House which again uses an acoustic guitar before moving into an almost doomy segment and despair drenched lyrics. It deliberately isn’t the easily digestible background noise all too much music is these days.
RFID is a throwback to the band’s punk roots and is the shortest of the eleven tracks on offer here. Standing for radio-frequency identification and set too an almost punk riff the lyrics warn of the dangers of this form of identification. A nod to members previous bands but done in a more eloquent, matured manner. Seven Wheels features a slower pace and allows for tortured vocals to be overlaid with ambient keyboard passages, which works surprisingly well. The album is finally closed out by another slower paced track, introduced by an acoustic guitar and featuring it throughout. What Is a Man is a poignant and heartfelt songs and a worthy end to a record characterised by its baring of its soul and all its faults.
So where does Pillar Of Fire sit compared with its predecessor and it’s makers previous bands? Arguably it’s the record of a band coming into their own and while there are tracks or segments present that wouldn’t be out of place on either VOIVOD or AMEBIX records, the heart of this is a TAU CROSS record, shaking off these comparisons in a way the first album struggled to manage. A mature album from a band of mature musicians with the feeling that this is only the beginning.
Pillar of Fire is out now via Relapse Records.
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