MONGREL’S CROSS – Arcana, Scrying and Revelation (2020)REVIEW

93. The Æon of Ma’at unsheathed — Wherein Le Bateleur no longer points toward quintessence, befouling the ideation of any divine immanence. All eyes fixate on crystal and mandala to no avail, no hypnosis or vision earned due to shaking hands and mantra that slips beneath the tongue and away from dread. Scrambling for the cards ’til the molten reflection of the stone mirror pierces the corner of the eye, a legion without banner waits fuming behind obsidian glass. Having risen unto the Planes in the most unnatural bout of possession, sorcery and magick’d trinket this monstrous force is fodder for the cursed immortal maestro even when awakening amidst their ramshackle uprising. The skies have already turned black with war sans Nýx or any celestial lights, as Mongrel’s Cross is erected a third time unto greater infamy. Insidious magick, an illuminated krater, the living dead and the void of the endtyme are envisioned in most prime minstrelsy — Vexing all with the finest prowess of psaltery plucked on strings twined of ancient flesh, ‘Arcana, Scrying and Revelation‘ is mastery borne from spiritual realms and telegraphed via purest epic heavy/speed metal and black metallic death’s worship.

The snake-fanged lion’s roar echoing in each ear throughout this third full-length album from one of Australia’s absolute finest extreme metal bands is of course the newly aligned Proscriptor, certainly one of the most important musicians for occult extreme metal in the United States since the early 90’s. I could write ten thousand words about Absu and how the discovery of, and possession by, ‘Tara‘ was an intense impetus for connecting thrash, heavy metal, and black metal into a finer mesh of my own previously limited musical genetics circa 2001 but it’d detract from the main event today to indulge myself. Suffice to say I am a ruthless fan… and I can echo this sentiment of high praise for Mongrel’s Cross an Australian black/thrash and bestial death metal band from the Brisbane area who have incorporated intensifying revelations of epic-scaled black/thrash metal into each of their records. ‘The Sins of Aquarius‘ (2012) represents a brilliant hashing of feral thrash metal mounded with a defiance of the popular bestial black/death of their countrymen at the time, it’d been my introduction to the band and earned a high spot on my Best of 2012 list. In fact each of their albums, ‘Arcana, Scrying and Revelation’ included, have/will persist in the upper echelon of my own taste. So, much of what I’d said about ‘Psalter of the Royal Dragon Court‘ in 2018 could be repeated here but it’d be pertinent to read my review of it. The short of it, so that we can get to the revisions of concept and singular revelations of this new album, is that the prior album was essentially a masterpiece that bonded the classic heavy metal influenced stoicism of Greek black metal and melodic black metal with actual epic heavy/thrash metal pieces. It was the sort of transfixing world-bending immersion you’ll find in bands like (the brutally underrated) Astriaal and certainly makes sense in the context of any Absu release as well.

Yes, the pairing is entirely natural and absolutely fitting as Proscriptor remains an impassioned performer with the sort of persona and panache we’re starving for in nowadays extreme metal. That said, if you’ve been pining in fits for the last decade in desirous rage for the next Absu album this isn’t meant to be that (at all) but — You will probably love it. A two year gap rather than a six year learning process this time around the majesty of ‘Arcana, Scrying and Revelation’ does not solely lie in the music itself but in the fact that they’ve crafted this absolutely pristine “epic” occult fantasy black-thrashing heavy metal album in a matter of two years. I mention this as a testament to the talent and drive of Mongrel’s Cross as songwriters but also to herald the adaptability of Proscriptor for quite effortlessly navigating this labyrinth of riffing and complex vocal arrangements whilst leaving a memorable performance in his wake. “A Magician’s Prayer” is the mind-flayer, an exemplar piece that offers a strongest point of distinction upon initial listening due to the intense vocal phrasing (ex. “I give you / my life“), where passionate ode is well, delivered passionately. Even if I was so wholly enchanted by ‘Psalter of the Royal Dragon Court’ for its riffs and incredible style this combination of narrator and actor in delivery of quite complex strings of lyrics is inarguably an advancement and a point of greatness.

Album opener “Suffer the Witch to Live” is perhaps the most key moment for this reintroduction of Mongrel’s Cross where speed metal, epic heavy metal, and melodic black metal all become indiscernible from one another in motion. The previous record had modes and “events” switched between for effect but these pieces all suggest one singular style that is righteously blended. Expect a mid-pace as “Fate of the Grail Pt. I” marches in, no doubt the scent of Varathron‘s ‘Stygian Forces of Scorn’ and Grand Belial’s Key‘s ‘Mocking the Philanthropist’ should be on your mind at this point thought they’re not necessarily aiming for such brutality. I believe this will reveal itself most readily to folks who listen to a fair amount of classic speed/power metal (such as early Fates Warning) where the motion of the song is certainly uniquely black/thrash metal in spirit but the major revelation of this album is surely their mastery of this adventurous dance of pure heavy metal. The point is surely made by now but plenty of bands make decent blackened heavy metal, next to none craft this sort of epic saga to get lost in and even fewer strike at it with such conviction. It may sound trite but Mongrel’s Cross offer here the sort of heavy metal that reminds me to strive for something less attainable, to push and needle towards an most exacting blade or, whatever greatness might come from any creative process. I so rarely feel this inspiration with any consistency from one singular entity and that notion sticks with me.

Plus hey, the riffs rule. If you love heavy metal guitar action this album is all about pooling and releasing shining examples of thorough and complete melodic statements divulged within a unique management of epic heavy, thrash, and black metal techniques. Even just one ride through “What the Cards May Tell” sums this up but in fact any song on this album speaks to high standards and powerful ethos. This brutally outclasses such an embarrassing majority of the futile extreme metal circles the world over attempting poignant black metal works off the backs of their competitors that it has been pure ecstasy listening to ‘Arcana, Scrying and Revelation’ these last few months, so many well-meaning works are canned in my mind after basking in this strongest feat from Mongrel’s Cross yet. Among the finest accomplishments of this year and at the very least a set of revitalizing tunes. Highest recommendation.

Highest recommendation. (100/100)

Rating: 10 out of 10.
TITLE:Arcana, Scrying and Revelation
LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records
RELEASE DATE:November 27th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Epic Black/Heavy Metal,
Black/Thrash Metal

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