When it comes to his music, Chino Moreno has always come across a bit…well…scattered. Much of the music he’s involved with is a mufti-faceted journey, if not just downright schizophrenic sometimes. He is part of a delicate balance between razor-sharp aggressiveness and electro tinged soundscapes with the Deftones. His Team Sleep project had some promising downtempo but was ultimately too unfocused and his new post-metal project Palms has just began to gain traction. Considering Moreno’s proclivity for variety, not to mention his insanely busy schedule, it’s hard to go into the debut full length from his new band Crosses with any expectations. But after a few listens, Crosses debut is a cohesive, seductive and at times dangerous debut album.
Technically, Crosses isn’t necessarily a new project. The band, which also features Far guitarist Shaun Lopez and drummer Chuck Doom have released two EP’s prior to this full length. The material found on those EP’s was remastered and combined with five new songs to create this full-length release. And while you might expect that to create some issues with the flow of the record, it’s the exact opposite. The songs transition seamlessly into one another, creating a true album experience in their wake. The album opens with the tense, Depeche Mode-esque “This Is A Trick” which immediately recalls shades of the Team Sleep project, albeit with a more aggressive edge to it. It’s a theme that’s repeated throughout the record to great effect, like on “Blk Stallion” where the verses slink along on the back of a funky bassline before the chorus explodes and Moreno sings “I never thought that this could happen to me/You never thought that this would happen did you?” Intense to say the least.
But in typical Moreno fashion, he addresses more than one of his musical personality’s on Crosses. “Telepathy” sounds like a long-lost Talking Heads track that was left in the vaults too long, giving it a dark, desperate edge all while maintaining a shiny exterior. That same darkness steps to the forefront on “Bitches Brew” which combines a bleak soundscape with a massive chorus (and ending) that is guaranteed to deliver goosebumps to whoever encounters it. Later in the record on “Frontiers” the band coalesces into a post-rock, shoegaze juggernaut, chugging away on their instruments with such precision that you can hear….no….you can feel every note that’s played. It’s just one of the many jaw-dropping moments on a beautiful record.
Musically, Crosses is a fairly diverse experience and for those with past exposure to Moreno’s work, that will not come as much of a surprise, What is somewhat unforeseen is Moreno’s powerful command over his songwriting, particularly vocal melody. Massive chorus melody’s erupt on “The Epilogue” and “Option” that see Moreno forgo his usual breathy croon in favor of a direct and almost soulful approach. Again, like many of the instrumental moments on the album, Moreno’s vocal inflections provide moments of sheer elegance, causing the listener to fall in love with melody and music all over again.
Although Crosses may not be Moreno’s most well-known group, their debut album may just be some of his finest work in years. He brings with him an incredible breadth of experience with different sounds and textures that he combines with his new band mates to create one of the more memorable debut albums in recent memory. The groups seemingly effortless transition between numerous musical styles is refreshing in and of itself, but for longtime fans of Moreno’s past works, it’s fairly unexpected how easily these progressions take place. It’s remarkable how well the album flows together considering the numerous elements that make it up. All things considered, Crosses is one of the better debut albums in recent history and one of the best records of 2014 so far.