Hot Cross - A New Set Of Lungs (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Hot Cross

A New Set Of Lungs (2002)

Level Plane

This ain't your grandpa's hardcore.

Stale. Bland. Boring. Those are the adjectives I most frequently use when describing hardcore over the last few years. Everything has been done, and overdone, and done on top of it. Tough guy, mosh metal, metalcore, is all that populates hardcore music today. Every trend has been driven headfirst into the ground. True, there are a few bands, love them or hate them, like the Blood Brothers, that are doing things differently, and setting trends rather than follow them, but for the most part, all the inventiveness and innovation has been completely sapped of the music. All we have are countless clones of Terror, and every other band on Bridge 9. I'm not exactly ready to hand out the 'saviors of hardcore' label, but these guys are doing their damndest to change the landscape of things. Cryonics and Fair Trades And Farewells have shown the band's ability to fuse new ideas with old, and make captivating, interesting music, but this is where it all started.

One look at Hot Cross' lineup reads like a screamo supergroup. Boasting members of defunct screamo bands Saetia, Joshua Fit For Battle, and Niel Perry, these are guys who've been around for a while. Lead singer Billy Werner was singer for the band that was widely regarded as being the originators of screamo, Saetia. Immediately upon the start of this record, you'll notice the vocals are no longer the shrill, shrieking screams that made Saetia so distinct. Don't be fooled, however; they've lost nothing in the way of intensity.

There's so many places to start with this record. The amazing lyrics, the frentic guitar, the multi-layered vocals - it's all a solid package. This record seems more urgent, and has somewhat less calculated of a feel than than the next two records, but where this is so impressive is the raw energy and fury. It doesn't relent at all during the album's 14-minute duration. The guitar work is full of rage, and it's intricacies are nothing that can be overlooked. The guitars are the driving force behind every song, and Billy's vocals can truly build on that background, and as a result sound all the more passionate and heartfelt. "Born On The Cusp" starts out pummeling you with ridiculous drum beats and guitars that just won't quit. "History Fell And The Heart Broke Open" has a different feel so it, as the bass interrupts the relentless guitars for Werner to chant "Unconscious, unfolded, unspoken," several times. The closing track, "Finger Redux," starts off slowly, and immediately picks up to a frantic pace. Halfway through, the chaos momentarily dies down for some guitar plucking, then restarts right where it left off, really showcasing the talented guitarists, moreso than any other point on the record. But as always with Hot Cross, lyrics are an integral part of the music and the message.

Socially conscious and poetic at the same time, Werner's lyrics provide an amazing base for the layers upon layers of music put on top of them. Werner is obviously an intelligent man, and one with a politically and socially aware consience. "Lend Me Your Brain (I'm Building An Idiot)" is about those people we all know, who preach about changing the world, but don't know the first thing about doing it, and don't care to learn. "You can lead the punks to reason / But you can't make them think / And lifelong trouble with the burning fists / And angry hearts of America's young / Is a fear of the new and the narrow outdated tunnels / They see the world through / And where to turn / But up one's own ass where the answers are free / But shit nonetheless." Hot Cross shows that intelligence does have a place in hardcore, and not everything has to be about straight edge, moshing, or brotherhood (gasp!). Werner just has an obvious way with words, one that makes everything flow so beautifully, without sounding forced or contrived; "I've stopped drawing that scene / And started speaking in tongues / A new state of mind is long overdue / It's time I inhaled with a new set of lungs." Lyrics like that are found all thoughout this album.

If you're a fan of Hot Cross, pick this up to see where it all began, even though it's not their most acessable release due to a lack of studio polish and more rage than in following releases. So if you've yet to hear anything of theirs, start with Cryonics or Fair Trades, and save this for last. But for the majority of us, this is absolutely a good listen, and some people like this album better than any of Hot Cross' other releases as it is. In any event, for $7 from the Level Plane distro, you'll be doing yourself a large favor to purchase a copy of this.