For being as far north as possible to still be considered Southern, The Sign of the Southern Cross is one of the most Southern bands you’ll ever hear, and they’re damn proud of it. Their debut album, “Of Mountains and Moonshine,” is littered with Southern influence. You can hear it in the lyrics, riffs, grooves, vocals: just about everything. They draw influence from multiple genres including groove metal, sludge, blues, and – dare I say – perhaps even country. They blend them all together extremely well, but they may rely a bit too much on their influences for their own good.
“Of Mountains and Moonshine” isn’t the most original album ever, or a groundbreaking masterpiece. Rather, it is simply a fantastic slab of groove metal. And riffs – don’t forget the riffs. This album has tons of ’em, and while they might sound similar at times, you’ll find yourself headbanging and air-guitaring anyway. Everything about this album is thick and heavy, from the guitar tones to the sound of the skins pounding away in the rhythm section, even the vocals.
Seth Uldricks’ voice is similar to Phil Anselmo’s of Pantera, but he can produce grunts even lower and shrieks even higher, all while maintaining a bluesy melody. In ballads like “Eating the Sun” and “Weeping Willow,” he sounds like he’s ready to beat the tar out of you and steal your cattle. Sadly, the bass is hardly audible, but I guess that’s the price you pay for riffs and solos this good.
The lyrics are basically what you’d expect in an album as Southern as this. Covering ­topics including Huckleberry Finn, fathers who leave, and pig slaughtering, they’re well written, albeit ridiculous at times. They might be a tad over the top, but I’ll be damned if they’re not awesome.
I’ve used the word “Southern” a few times to describe this album; another appropriate word would be “energy.” Songs like “Unwelcome in That House” and “Hog Callin’” have energy that you can’t find in the most brutal death metal tracks. You can’t sit still and listen to this; you’ll be moving in one way or another by the time its 68 minutes are through. It’s a hell of a ride.
Not only is this the ultimate backyard barbecue album, it’s just an amazing record that deserves your time. If you like that swampy heaviness that bands like Down bring to the table but want some fast-paced, punch-in-the-face metal, this is for you. It’s the best of everything the South has to offer: great riffs, blistering solos, and some crazy man vocals. Let’s party!