After punk supergroup Dead Cross recorded their 2017 debut, they enlisted Faith No More’s Mike Patton to replace departing vocalist Gabe Serbian. Patton rewrote an album’s worth of lyrics, rerecorded the vocals, and ultimately saved the day. When writing II, guitarist Michael Crain (Retox), bassist Justin Pearson (The Locust, Deaf Club), and drummer Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer) already knew Patton would be at the helm. “On the first record, we wanted to be more old-school thrash, and that was because of Gabe’s vocal range,” Crain tells Apple Music. “When Patton came in, he completely took it another direction. I didn’t think those songs could sound like that, honestly. The guy’s musicality is otherworldly.” However, recording II with producer Ross Robinson had its own difficulties. Crain was recovering from cancer and chemotherapy during the sessions. “I had just finished treatments, but I was still really sick,” he says. “Obviously, it takes a while for all that stuff to wear off and get better. Chemo, the radiation, coming off painkillers—all that shit is a fucking nightmare.” (As if that weren’t bad enough, Serbian passed away suddenly after the album was finished.) Despite his painful ordeal, the band’s insane talent and sly sense of humor shine through. Below, Crain gives a hot take on each track. “Love Without Love” “With the riff, I was trying to make it sound like demented dinosaurs. I achieved that with a delay and a pitch shifter. But I love how that riff has its own cadence, its own beat. I really enjoy writing stuff like that. When the song picks up tempo, that’s super fun. It’s a fucking banger, and I love how Patton attacks the song. It’s spooky but romantic. It sounds like a knight riding off into the netherworld to rescue a maiden.” “Animal Espionage” “This is my favorite song on the record and the song I wanted to start the record with. But because we are a democratic society, I was outvoted. But I’m really proud of my guitar playing on this one. I had fun writing these riffs, and I love Patton’s vocal hook. I’d say this song is our Dear John letter to my cancer.” “Heart Reformer” “This song is a mosh pit stirrer. It’s definitely a beer-drinking, fist-pumping adrenaline ride. I like the ending on this one a lot. I’m not sure what Patton is talking about in the lyrics, but I think it’s his mental state at the time of writing this, which I think was during deep COVID isolation. Let’s say this is Mike Patton’s Dear John letter to COVID.” “Strong and Wrong” “For my guitar parts, I drew a lot of inspiration for this from our favorite Southern Californian punk forefathers—Drive Like Jehu, Black Flag, and Christian Death. There was such a big time span when Patton was writing lyrics for these songs—a lot of it was during COVID, the Black Lives Matter movement, the George Floyd riots, all that. So, I’m not sure exactly where he’s coming from in this one, but I feel like it’s somewhere in there.” “Ants and Dragons” “For me, this was really Daniel Ash-influenced, guitar-wise. I really drew on Bauhaus. I drew on that darkness. I went back into the shooting gallery for this one. You could say I went back to the ’90s, dyed my hair black, and got strung out on heroin again. That’s exactly what it sounds like.” “Nightclub Canary” “This is another banger. Ross definitely helped make that magic with the arrangements. I had the riff for a long time—I think we started working on that one in 2018. But then it completely changed, and Patton really spun it into another dimension—the fourth dimension. It’s like a fucking magic carpet ride through Mike Patton’s demented portals and possessed vocal cords.” “Christian Missile Crisis” “For me, this was like an homage to the first record, musically and riff-wise, at the time we wrote it. But now, hearing it finished with the lyrical content and the vocals, it sounds like something law enforcement would listen to on their way to execute a raid. If the song is about gun nuts, it sounds like something that the gun nuts would listen to on their way to use their guns.” “Reign of Error” “This song wrote itself. I had the riff written the night before, but when Dave and JP came in the room, [former Slayer guitarist] Jeff Hanneman’s hands wrote the song, not mine. I think it was actually a Slayer song. So, yeah, the ghost of Hanneman actually wrote this.” “Imposter Syndrome” “This song has some fucking good lyrics. Patton’s got a way with words, doesn’t he? He’s good at what he does. I think he’s established that by now. I feel like this song is about struggling still, despite your age. Still not knowing who you really are. It’s like a split personality disorder at its finest. Or maybe it’s about communication, emotions, and honesty. It’s couples counseling.”


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