Tau Cross - Tau Cross (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Tau Cross

Tau Cross (2015)

Relapse Records

It’s fitting that Tau Cross’ self-titled debut opens with a track called “Lazarus.” In more ways than one, the band itself is a rebirth, or, return from death, for frontman Rob Miller. When his previous band, punk legends Amebix, suddenly ended in 2012 following their excellent Sonic Mass reunion record, it was unclear if it was the end of the line for Miller, who hadn’t released music for decades preceding Sonic Mass' arrival. Little did we know, the whole time something was growing from Amebix’s ashes.

In interviews, Miller has stated that with Tau Cross, he’s relieved that he doesn’t have to cater to the Amebix name, or expectations that people have for that band. While Tau Cross is undeniably a Rob Miller album, featuring his glass-and-tar voice spitting out metaphysical musings, this release certainly isn’t Amebix 2.0. As “Lazarus” (and pretty much all of the songs) make clear, the classic Amebix weighty chug-chug-chug has been replaced, or perhaps evolved, into a much more thrash metal cadence. For instance, “Fire in the Sky” is driven by a fist-pumping enthusiasm. “Midsummer” opens with a wonderfully Judas Priest-ish swagger riff that would fit right at home on Hell Bent for Leather. A good portion of this direction is undeniably due to Michel "Away" Langevin from Voivod who pounds on the skin with a war march precision. Guitarists Jon Misery and Andy Lefton all seem to be on the same page, especially on “Fire”'s second half, where the charging song folds into a half time salute to the majesty of thee riff.

But, while the music is of a different sort than Amebix, Miller’s lyrics have continued to examine the path that started with his first recorded notes. As with Sonic Mass, there is direct commentary on just what man is, as seen both through a political filter and through a spiritual one. “We Control the Fear” could be seen as an attack on 24-hour news reporting or the church, examining just how fear is used as a tool to control people en mass. But, interestingly, Miller doesn’t necessarily have a positive view of humans themselves. "Prisoner" has a smashing chorus that condemns homo sapiens with “No wall, no guard, no wire, no wall/ we are the perfect prisoner.” There does come a point where really, it’s not outside forces oppressing you, it’s one’s inherent vices.

My personal favorite aspect, Miller’s sly reference to ancient beliefs, or perhaps, more accurately, ageless beliefs, are prevalent. “Lazarus,” in addition to tilting the biblical concept on its head, nods to ancient sun worship and muses on the ancient Briton belief of rebirth as seen through the seasons. “Our Day” speaks to a redemption, be it of the holy or metaphorical sort.

And, therein lies Miller’s mastery. He blasts down institutions without attacking individual thought. Certainly, he scowls at some of man’s flaws, particularly on “Prison” when he calls us all apes. But, as is Miller style, he chides and ridicules humanity before telling it to get off its knees. Despite the massive thundering behind him, on “Our Day,” Miller proclaims “All suffering will end when we manifest love as law/our day will come.” In some respects, despite his slashing at governments and churches and even man’s inherent cowardice, Miller announces a love and respect for mankind. Despite his repeated veiled salute to the old Gods, the proclamation is surprisingly Christ-like… need we look back to “Lazarus” or the baptism scene on “The Devil Knows His Own?” Still, one could argue that Jesus himself is merely a manifestation, or symbol, of the old ways. No matter how you look at it, this record, with all it’s smashing and grinding, is a message of love. Tough love, but love none the less.