D.R.I.’s ‘Crossover’ melds metal, punk perfectly

When you talk about punk music, a lot of those on the outside looking in think of people with facial piercings and multi-colored hair shaved into mohawks who wear leather jackets adorned with spikes and studs listening to bands that can’t play their instruments and shout incoherently instead of sing.

Well, those people on the outside are wrong … sort of.

Punk is partially that, but it also encompasses a variety of music. It ranges from the jangly humor of the Dead Milkmen to the incoherent rage of Sore Throat to the poppish Ramones to the thrash sound of Sore Throat’s nemesis, D.R.I., aka Dirty Rotten Imbeciles.

Going into this, I’m sure that I’ll have at least one person say “D.R.I. isn’t a real punk band.” That’s OK, I don’t consider Poison a metal band, but here’s a lot of people will disagree with me anyway.

D.R.I.’s 1987 album Crossover is considered an important album in the thrashcore genre. It’s not the first album of the genre, but it is probably the most prominent, breaking through in ways their peers Cryptic Slaughter and Septic Death did not.

So what is thrashcore?

It’s kind of like it sounds. It’s a mixture of punk rock and thrash metal. It keeps the angst and often political awareness of punk and puts it together with heavy guitar sound which people associate more with headbanging than stomping.

Anyway, Crossover led to the use of the term “crossover” to describe the genre, a term that stuck for many years.

Making a mark

Crossover made waves in the punk community, with the albums cover making an appearance on Sore Throat’s 45-song EP, Death to Capitalist Hardcore. On the cover of that album, a man in a suit who is impaled by a spike, holds a copy of what looks to be Crossover in his hand.

Now, I’m not exactly sure why Sore Throat had a problem with D.R.I.

Could it have been that they produced a successful album? Could it be Crossover had an excellent production? Is it possibly because D.R.I. knew how to play their instruments?

Some questions may never be answered.

The album

Crossover, as far as its lyrics, offers an interesting mix of approaches. There’s a seething anger in most of the songs, sometimes boiling over into outright threats to the listener. Many of the songs eschew choruses to take more of a diatribe form, with the entire song serving as a statement.

The band on Crossover is Kurt Brecht (who snarls as much as he shouts) Spike Cassidy on guitar, Josh Pappe on bass and Felix Griffin on Drums. The standouts on this album are Brecht and Pappe. Brecht’s vocals keep the album fueled throughout, keeping the energy level steady, if not rising, on consecutive songs. Pappe, on the other hand, uses the bass as almost a lead instrument and D.R.I. takes advantage of this whenever possible on Crossover.

Things start off pretty memorably with “Five Year Plan.” Starting off, you’re not sure if you’re about to hear a punk album or a thrash metal album. There’s a lot of thrash elements in this song, but the vocals are definitely punk with Brecht screaming at the top of his lungs. When you reach the guitar solo though, you can pretty much say this is a metal album. “Five Year Plan” is essentially the sampler plate that tells you what you’re about to be served.

Things get even more metal, and faster, with the furious “Tear it Down.” But, before you think they’ve settled into a groove, they jump right into the third track “A Coffin,” which shows their punk roots at its furious 58 seconds before jumping into metal territory once again.

Bass player Pappe is given the chance to shine in the tracks “Probation” where he moves to the forefront and  “Decisions” which he, along with Griffin, pound listeners with a bass-bass drum combo. He also gets the chance to get experimental, along with the rest of the band, with the very heavy “Go Die!” Pappe continues to dominate the later half of the album in another standout track “No Religion” which see D.R.I. continue to experiment how far they can take their sound.

The Anthrax-esque “Fun and Games” and “Oblivion” cap the album off by digging into the metal end of the spectrum, attempting to rip the listener in two before hitting the short outro.

Final thoughts

Crossover is definitely worth a listen. Sure, most of the songs follow the same pattern: Slow heavy beginning which leads to a frantic punk-metal song. But that’s a pattern you see for a lot of punk, thrashcore or not.

Sure, it’s probably not the most “punk” album, but it is a great listening experience. It shows how the seamless melding of two genres should be done.

Check it out.

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