Rubicon Cross – Pre-Release Listen Review – 5/4/13

Occasionally you just find yourself at the right place, at the right time, and one of those “alignment-of-the-planets” moments brought me to be sitting in CJ Snare’s hotel room along with the wife and a very select few good friends, with an opportunity to listen to the new Rubicon Cross CD. I’ve met CJ several times and know Chris Green (the mind-blowingly talented Rubicon Cross guitarist) from times of old, and the Rubicon Cross project has been one of those tantalizing mixes of great musicians, great songs and a long time coming!

Our first look at Rubicon Cross (RC) in recorded form came back in 2011 with the independent release of the “Limited Edition EP” which delivered four songs that were full of bite and swagger, and this quickly found it’s way onto many ‘best of 2011’ metal lists. Lacking new material, I keep coming back to the EP and in particular “Next Worst Enemy” is right up there as a staple of any playlist I might throw together. The combination of CJ Snare on vocals and the stellar guitar playing of Chris together, provides a platform for both to shine – all we needed was a full line-up…

The fact that CJ and Chris were back in the studio with enough material for a full album was some of the best news of 2012, only to be supplemented with the announcement that Simon Farmery was now officially a Rubicon Cross member, filling the bass player position. Facebook updates from the recording sessions provided more teasing hints of greatness (and to be fair a good deal of drinking to go with it…). So, with the recording in the can, how long can it take to get this thing released? Well, that question is still to be answered, and as I write this, that is still unknown, but I sincerely hope it isn’t long. The world deserves to hear this music!

Obviously in these days of digital downloads, there is a great risk that someone will post an illegal copy, so all involved in the project have been taking great care to ensure the album isn’t leaked, so the only way to hear the whole thing currently is in the company of one of the band members. At one point I suggested to Chris I was going to have to drive all the way from Virginia to Chicago such was my desire to hear the record! However, fortunately that wasn’t necessary, back to that hotel room….

It’s obviously difficult to provide a full review from a single listen, so I’m not going to attempt that here, but hopefully I can provide sense of what we are dealing with here.  I can’t remember exactly how many tracks there are, but I think it was eleven, of which two I would classify as heavy ballads, another track is a radio friendly, almost ‘punky’ 3-minute slash’n’dash, while the remainder are more in-line with the melodic metal core and deliver everything from mid-paced rockers to out-right head-bangers. The record includes the EP tracks, which have been given a fresh cost of paint and all of these benefit from the big studio treatment and come out sounding fresh, but comfortably familiar.

Rubicon have cleverly teased some more, with samples of the new songs on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rubicon-Cross/196675117028954?fref=ts) and the first of these was “Bleed With Me”, which is a nicely up tempo thrasher, that includes an incredibly tasty solo from Chris. Those that know Chris from Furyon (which seems to be a chapter in Chris’ career that is now turning another page – yes – new Furyon material from the fingertips of Mr. Green coming soon…) will instantly recognize his wickedly flowing style as soon as the solo kicks off with a screeching feedback-induced howl. Hearing the entire track only goes to reinforce the idea that this band will be bad-ass live. In some way the recording feels very much like watching drag racing on TV – all the excitement and energy is there to be seen, but the crazy ground shaking power of the live event just isn’t there. And that isn’t in any way a criticism of the recording, it’s as good as they come; I just believe live there will more. Way more.

The other partial track on the Facebook page is “You Will Remember Me” which is prophetic –you will remember these guys! This track showcases how good CJ is sounding these days. Many of the 80’s/90’s rockers aren’t aging quite so well, but, if anything, CJ is sounding better than ever; perhaps it is the excitement brought about by new material? Whatever it is, it’s working really well.

The band has recently announced the final two official members, with Robert Behnke taking the drum stool and Jeff Lerman on second guitar. It would seem that Jeff is another fret-meltingly good player, so I can only imagine the pairing of Chris and Jeff on stage together. This is going to be fun. I know the band is now rehearsing regularly, so I am hopeful that we will get some live dates toward the tail end of the year.

So, walking away from hearing the whole album what were my impressions? You know it’s interesting, but for a long time I have had this feeling that melody that was so fundamental to much of the 80’s hard rock scene would be coming back to what we know as heavy metal, but reinvented in some way. Could this be it? May be that is a bit presumptuous of me after hearing this record one time through, but there is a huge fan-base out there, and many are stuck in the 80’s and early 90’s, not because they don’t like new music or have closed ears, but simply no one has delivered the right product. Could this be the opening of a new chapter in the history of heavy metal?

Rubicon Cross

Rubicon Cross

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