Iron Reagan is made up of the singer and bassist from Municipal Waste, Darkest Hour‘s old drummer, and DRI‘s Crossover DNA. Then again, if you’re at all familiar with the thrash revival scene then you probably already know that about this band. And you can probably take a healthy guess about what their latest album on Relapse, Crossover Ministry, sounds like.
All hints of predictability aside this is a rollicking throwback to the heyday of thrash when bands like Testament, Exodus, Forbidden, and so many others were as likely to be found shredding guitars and skateboards as digging themselves out of the pit.
Vocalist Tony Foresta’s yelp is eerily reminiscent of DRI’s Kurt Brecht while the guitar work is a bit more evolved and involved than that band. It leans more strongly in the direction of Practice What You Preach-era Testament or Fabulous Disaster-era Exodus. The chugging main riff on “Fuck the Neighbors” sounds like a Thrash Zone outtake right down to the gang chorus.
For old thrash fans this is either going to come off as disingenuous mockery of a beloved art form or supreme praise and homage to the music of 30 years(!) ago. For newer fans of the genre this is just proof that it still can kick ass when performed well by people who love what they’re doing.
The title track of the album shows off all the bits and pieces that make Iron Reagan what they are. Somehow, though, it wound up being one of my less favored songs on the album particularly because the mosh part seems awkwardly wedged into a perfectly good thrash tune.
As with any thrash release this one takes a few listens to be able to discern individual tracks from one another. That’s not to say it all sounds the same, but the pacing and shorter songs leave little time to get one’s footing before you’re on to the next track. That said, the no-slow-all-go ethos surrounding this band never lets tracks get boring. As proof of that the album barely clocks in at 30 minutes.
Crossover Ministry with its shorter songs also pulls off a trick that thrash bands seem to rarely get credit for: it makes them eminently re-playable. For example, during the writing of the draft of this review the album played through no less than three times and not once did it sound stale or boring. As a matter of fact, I plan to listen to it many more times throughout the coming year.
“Dognotgods” hints at the ties that thrash shares with punk and is probably the best example here of the crossover sound. If you listen closely you can hear the influence of Black Flag either on this band or on thrash as a whole.
The band owes a debt to Kurt Ballou‘s production as well here. One of the common problems down through the history of this genre is where production slightly misstepped and completely threw off the feel to the point of distraction. Ballou does a phenomenal job of capturing the deep pocket Iron Reagan achieve here while keeping the sound extremely balanced.
This album will be a great soundtrack for sunnier weather and the sweaty pits of summer. Get in on it now and thrash it up.
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Crossover Ministry is out now via Relapse Records. You can purchase the album here.