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Dead Cross & Secret Chiefs 3 @ Royale Boston (review, pics)

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Dead Cross’ eponymous debut LP poses the question, “what would an old-school crossover thrash record headed by Mike Patton and Dave Lombardo sound like?” and answers it with 27 minutes of warped, scorching fury. Its nine originals (plus a left-field Bauhaus cover, just because) find Faith No More’s Patton spitting venom over merciless tracks that ex-Slayer drummer Lombardo and Retox members Justin Pearson and Michael Crain had already recorded with a separate vocalist, but the last-minute shuffle still sounds like a natural fit. No one’s reinventing the wheel here, but Patton’s inimitable weirdness melding with the pure savagery of the instrumentals ought to satisfy anyone intrigued by the idea in the first place. The band’s supporting late-summer tour, which stopped at Boston’s Royale on a recent Monday night, followed suit in delivering a no-frills show that thrilled nonetheless.

Secret Chiefs 3, the hooded troupe led by Patton affiliate and Mr. Bungle co-founder Trey Spruance, handled opening duties for the evening with a set of genre-hopping madness. The five-piece threaded psychedelic desert-thrash with horror soundtrack cues and avant-metal brutality in wholly original, head-spinning fashion, and even threw in a reinvention of John Carpenter’s Halloween theme. The set was a strange and unpredictable treat.

When Dead Cross’ time came, their approach to performance was just as uncompromising as on record. With Lombardo obscured behind a wall of percussion, Patton manning the mic at center and bassist Pearson and guitarist Crain at either side, the quartet posed frozen for just a moment before exploding into “Seizure and Desist.” The main set ­– all 10 cuts from the record plus a pair of new songs – was a strobe-blasted blur. Lombardo’s playing sounded as deadly precise as ever, and the Crain/Pearson duo had no trouble keeping up. Patton, meanwhile, seized another opportunity to prove himself among the best and most innovative vocalists in metal (or elsewhere). His truly otherworldly range of screams and screeches, and characteristically kinetic delivery, elevated an already air-tight set to another level of artfulness.

A more conventional band might’ve thrown in a cover or two from its stars’ respective back catalogs, but Dead Cross don’t exactly come off as the nostalgic type. A brief encore did feature snippets of Slayer’s “Criminally Insane” and Faith No More’s “Epic,” but they served as more of a winking acknowledgement of the sort of show we could be at. The band closed things out in earnest with a timely and faithful cover of Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” bringing things full circle in a fitting nod to the punk tradition at the project’s roots.

We also caught the Dead Cross tour in NYC and at Riot Fest.

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