Review Summary: Crosses' embrace of indulgent texture and weighted atmosphere end up giving the album a resilient and hypnotically enticing appeal.
It’s been a long time coming for California’s Crosses
. The band originated three years ago, when Deftones
vocalist Chino Moreno teamed up with Shaun Lopez of Far
and producer Chuck Doom, dropping electronic-driven trips to the Spirit World across two EP’s since 2011. Crosses’ 2014 debut LP isn’t a new work, at least not entirely. The album compiles the first two EP’s the band released in 2011 and 2012, while also offering the once-unreleased tracks that were to be used for a third EP. The Crosses
LP marks the true visualization of the group’s altered state of a project, one that embraces both the pleasure and the pain of trip-hop and dream pop while channeling the most restless spirits from the band’s past projects.
Chino Moreno’s gasping vocals have made his past work in Team Sleep
and Deftones (specifically from the albums White Pony
and Saturday Night Wrist
) so iconic. His intense screams have served the metal community well since the late 80’s, but with Crosses
, he’s able to really capitalize on that spectral wail that used to be reserved for songs like Deftones’ “Beware.” Crosses also sets itself apart from Moreno’s other side project Palms
with more minor keys, giving the album a morose and haunting vibe. While Palms was spiritual and lifting and Deftones was gritty and heavy, Crosses lands square in the middle, emitting an incredibly textured sound bathed in otherworldly atmosphere, but still pushing something cryptically unseen. “Bitches Brew” is a heavy, heavy track, with intensely layered electronic effects seeping through the walls and Moreno’s cries and slides effortlessly drifting alongside them. Crosses’ musical direction fits seamlessly with Moreno’s now-iconic vocal delivery; he’s always worked well within the field of quiet suggestion, a whisper in the dark, and Crosses
’ subdued, haunting sound is complemented immensely from Moreno’s involvement.
’ eerie electronic-driven tone is further constructed by guitarist Shaun Lopez (formerly of post-hardcore band Far) and producer Chuck Doom, both of which make Crosses
a creeping monster in their discographies. The rumbling thumps in “Telepathy” emit the sound of a club theme for vampires, while the echoing drops and electric drums in “Bermuda Locket” groove back and forth between dimensions. The warped waves in “Blk Stallion” move into a steady beat, highlighting Doom’s excellent method of moving from confusing, wavy noise into a powerful unified completion. The way Lopez has referenced Doom as the “Invisible Man” is bizarrely apropos; Chuck Doom’s technique of overlaying Moreno’s vocals adds an unseen, ghostly harmony that further drives the gloomy aura that the nimble electronics and thunderous back tones begin.
Lopez’ guitar work with Crosses is anything but post-hardcore, more signifying his work in mixing tracks for Deftones albums instead of rampant guitar blitzkriegs. There’s a thick resonance to Lopez’ work on Crosses
, something toned and resonant, very similar to Billy Howerdel’s work in A Perfect Circle
. “Nineteen Ninety Four” is a prominent melody-driven song, with Lopez’s sliding guitars channeling the theme of an island set comfortably in the Bermuda Triangle. “Option” possesses a tumultuous chaos in the melodies behind Moreno’s singing before bursting into a downright ascendant chorus, marking one of the best on the album.
The album’s single “The Epilogue” is a real oddity. While it’s strangely minimalist for a band who embraces layered music, it puts Moreno in the role of a pop singer, of all things. His vocals emit less atmosphere and more pure melodic catchiness. Lopez and Doom’s influence is also much less prominent, with simplistic beats and spacey climbs. Despite being a big difference from what the group is best known for, it has a perverse catchiness to it, one that’s harder to nail in other songs on the album. It’s not the best on the album by any means, but it’s certainly impressive how it’s still able to sound good, even as such a huge departure from the group’s signature tone.
Crosses seem to stumble their sound, however, when they move away from that darker world and revisit the older hats. “Trophy” is dreamy, with Moreno’s melodic echoes and Doom’s starlit effects, but it doesn’t offer much significance beyond the “wide open-spacey” sound. However, these moments are quite rare on the LP, even when the moods change from exorcism-level creepiness to dreamy serenity. Crosses’ sound is best defined and most enjoyable when they use the electronic effects in frighteningly ambitious ways, in ways to generate an oddly comfortable excess of texture that makes you feel like your headphones are being possessed by both vengeful and serene spirits at the same time.
Crosses’ first LP amplifies the already amazing appeal of Chino Moreno’s unequivocally stellar voice by giving him the atmosphere that it’s always craved. Lopez’s guitars generate siren-esque calls at every turn, while Chuck Doom’s production packs on the electronic layers without making it sound like overly processed cacophony. There’s a steady placement to every single beat, every single harmonic bit that makes Crosses
so astonishingly poignant. Compared to Deftones, Palms and Far, Crosses initially lacks a distinctive identity. It seems to rely on atmosphere instead of groove or hooks, but in actuality, it’s a very rewarding album that encourages a sense of trance-y and hypnotic re-listening. While some songs like “Trophy” seem to take that vision to an unnecessary extreme, providing passivity instead of tone, but the majority of the album is thick with moody precision. Crosses
won’t appeal to everyone, especially if you’re into the fist-to-face nature of classic Deftones or Far, but the band’s members have always had a knack for steady evolution of their respective sounds, and Crosses
is evolution incarnate for these tripped-out visionaries. Crosses have set a strong standard for themselves with their first LP and it’s certainly one to revisit many times before the end of 2014.