Hot Cross

Risk Revival

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Risk Revival is Hot Cross' second full-length and first after parting ways with founding guitarist Josh Jakubowski, but the Philadelphia natives appear to have fared just fine without him -- if you discount the album's suggestive title and the six-month period spent tinkering with the results prior to release in February 2007. Think Hot Cross are trying to tell us something? Anyway, with titles like "Exits and Trails," "Resent Resist Rebuild" and "Rejoinder," their songs certainly don't dispel this suspicion, and perhaps we're reading too much into this, but you never know with a band rooted in emo -- they tend to obsess about breakups, big time. In any case, most of Hot Cross' new material deals in a mixture of hardcore activism and heartfelt self-examination, while musically contrasting fundamental hardcore simplicity with fleet-fingered fretwork patterns (see "Turncoat Revolution," "Cardiac Silence," "Fatefully," etc.), and, notably, strictly clean vocals (no metalcore style grunting here) featuring the occasional screamo, errrr -- screaming -- but no whining! As such, most songs are imminently accessible without sounding forced or formulaic, as they might be if the band were making concessions to commerce. Rather, there's even room for departures, like the slow but insistent drive of "Silence Is Failure," and the acoustic origins of standout "Finance Fuels the Sickness at Heart." In other words, this is a fine, if hardly transcendent outing, but certainly one that, through all of the implied and admitted uncertainty surrounding its release, was well worth "risking the band's revival."

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