Personnel: Kyle Gunther (vocals); Tony Asta, Hiran Deraniyagala (guitar); Alex Bent (drums).
Audio Mixer: Mark Lewis.
Recording information: Audiohammer Studios.
Michigan's Battlecross were together for seven years before they ever released an album. Since 2011, they've released four, including Rise to Power, all the while touring incessantly. That long gestation time has proven a strength over and again. These ten songs showcase an astonishing variety of metal styles and subgenres, while remaining true to the thrash aesthetic Battlecross have maintained from the very beginning. Two elements that may be less than familiar to fans may be the abundant use of melodic death metal inside and outside thrash tunes, as well as a heavier reliance on (brief) guitar solos. Album opener "Scars" is a three-minute blast of nearly pure thrash metal -- with a soaring and melodic dual lead guitar bridge for contrast. "Not Your Slave" simultaneously acknowledges Slayer's influence while laying down brutal grooves. The crazy d-beats that introduce "The Climb" are an engine for knotty, knuckle-busting thrash with death metal laced into the guitar lines and a chanted chorus. "Blood & Lies" may begin with an atmospheric acoustic guitar, but it quickly erupts into cacophonous noise and brutality until a guitar breakdown brings it all back into view. "Spoiled" employs riffs that recall the earliest Iron Maiden recordings refracted through the lens of thrash and death metal. While "Bound by Fear" is pure rage and punishment, the guitar breaks in "Despised" offer respite from its insanely fast attack. "The Path" uses acoustic guitars to introduce some soaring melo-death guitar soloing, but the cut's real riff comes through a minute in and explodes. It's the set closer and offers the best breakdown on the entire record. Produced by Jason Suecof and mixed by Mark Lewis, Rise to Power is Battlecross' best-sounding album in addition to being their most ambitious. Everything is present, crisp, up-front, allowing the band's live dynamics to come through in spades. While substance is the key to all Battlecross records, the careening stylistic diversity displayed here sets it apart -- and above -- earlier efforts. ~ Thom Jurek