"Psalter of the Royal Dragon Court"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Now here is a name I thought I'd never hear again. I remember the debut of Australia's Mongrel's Cross being pretty spectacular, but that was released years ago and I figured the band was a one and done proposition. Now "Psalter of the Royal Dragon Court" comes sailing in out of the blue and what's more, they are still on the same label they were 6 years ago.

There have been some changes. The band is now down to a duo. But their sound retains a lot of what I like to call "brutal elegance". This is extreme metal, no question of that, but it is extremity with a great focus on structure. The tunes of Mongrel's Cross have an almost baroque feel to them. It's certainly not just the hellspawned war metal blasting that many Aussie bands are known for. I would even use the word "tasteful" to describe some of the riffing here. But the foundations of it run very deep into thrash and death metal, especially the raw puking vocals which never give way to more moderate tones. Yet even these are more understandable than usual.

This is death/thrash with brains. "Trail of the Serpent" is a beautifully constructed song that's put together with care. Others like "Khara" and "Vessel of Shar On" are in a similar vein, with a kind of medieval vibe. One thing you will get plenty of on this album is lead soloing. Scorching fretwork pops up constantly and it's never mindless wang banging or cat strangling. 

Glad to see Mongrel's Cross is back at it. This doesn't blow me away quite like their debut, but it is still well worth investigating for those who like a touch of class in their extreme metal.