Pillar of Fire
The second album from this critically acclaimed (and if they’re not, then they should be) international heavy metal/punk act is just as good as their debut. Fans of Amebix and Killing Joke (like myself) will undoubtedly enjoy this record as it seems a cross between the two acts and manages to evolve a little further behind the constraints of both bands. Originality seems a valued thing here, with guitarists Andy Lefton and Jon Misery even going out of their way to craft riff-structures that we don’t often hear in punk, metal or even rock music. The melodies on this disc seem to range from hefty to oblong and I couldn’t be happier as this is the kind of out of the box thinking that might save the genre. Or maybe I’m just getting old. If it isn’t already apparent, bassist/frontman Rob “The Baron” Miller is pretty much a dead-ringer for Killing Joke vocalist Jaz Coleman, especially on “Bread and Circuses” and “Deep State.” The album’s ritualistic title cut also comes out just as unexpected, as it gives a moment away from the heavy guitar in which to ponder – and that it did. This is the kind of record that I’m going to have to decipher and I knew that from the very first listen. It is an album where the lyrics are just as well written and important as the riffs themselves, and absolutely not just some sort of “over-hyped supergroup” commonly displayed in rock media.
I’ve only explained a few songs, but each one of these tracks have their own vibe and purpose much like something I’d expect from Killing Joke – especially their recent material. You never knew what kind of record those guys were going to make, and every time they did make a new record, you never found yourself in complaint because they, like Tau Cross; know how to write meaningful music with meaningful lyrics. But don’t get me wrong, as I’m not here to praise Killing Joke over Tau Cross and would rather seem them standing on equal pillars – Pillars of Fire as it were. There’s just the unmistakable fact that Tau Cross sound an awful lot like the former with some slight divergences (but necessary divergences, in my opinion) that can veer off into slightly rough territory with Miller’s vocal lines not being truly perfect – nor did we ever expect them to be. The very fact that he’s able to adapt with the band regardless of whether they’re crafting punishing rock pieces or taking us into acoustic atmospheres that can sometimes sound like either that of classic goth or industrial, is quite commendable in its own right. Additionally, I find the record very socially conscious in so far as the multitude of issues that we face today as a people. Yet the songs are written in a form that almost feels like an ancient folktale or perhaps a book in the A Song Of Ice and Fire series. You have to read between the lines to really understand, with only “RFID” being lyrically blatant and perhaps also a bit out of place in comparison to the others. The writing is also quite esoteric in it’s poetry, which is pretty common for gentlemen that explore levels of the occult in their music. There are a ton of “feel good” songs out there in the world, but I’ve never really cared for much of them. That’s because much of the western pop music industry seems to be interested in masking what is really going on out there and when you pop in Tau Cross, you’re going to get a rough wake-up call and assurance that everything is in fact, not okay. If you can’t get that from the lyrics alone, then you’ll definitely feel it in the atmosphere.
Perhaps I’ve taken a personal liking to the disc and can admit from the other point of view that this isn’t a very accessible or easy to digest piece of music. The vocals might not be as clean as you’d like, there are no happy sing-alongs. While it’s heavy, it isn’t death or black metal, there’s no real thrash to speak of and it follows very much a punk aesthetic. But it seems to be lyrically intelligent and I’m quite reminded of Skyclad in those instances. I used to listen to early Skyclad on constant, because even though the fact that those discs were released several years before I discovered the heavy metal and hard rock genres, they were and are still relevant today. I feel that an album like Pillars of Fire carries on that same sense of purpose that I got from Skyclad, albeit without so much of the black humor. This is a very sobering listen, definitely not the kind of disc that I’d recommend for a fun drive with friends and certainly not something I’d recommend digging into if you’re going through serious issues. In other words, probably not the kind of music that you’d want to listen to in order to put yourself in a good mood. This disc is very warm, but also very bitter and to me right now, it seems to make perfect sense. It feels almost therapeutic for me, so perhaps it could feel the same to you. There’s no doubt that I’ll be further exploring each of these songs and hopefully I’ll be able to gain something more from each of them, because Tau Cross have proven that they’re just that kind of band. Pillars of Fire is one in a million, as far as I’m concerned, so pick it up if any of this sounds like what you want to hear.