Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross: Ghosts of a New Dimension

Galactic Cross Galactic Cross

One can only hope that the Chamber of Commerce in Frederick, Maryland, someday is made to understand the cultural treasure the city has in hosting the epicenter of American doom on the Eastern Seaboard. In addition to, in recent years, playing host to the Maryland Doom Fest, Frederick has long been home to a scene of players and bands that has evolved over time into a creative force spanning decades, and from Pentagram to The Druids and Faith in Jane, the Chesapeake-regional underground crosses generations and styles as a true artistic inheritance should.

Galactic Cross make their full-length debut as a new project fronted by one of Frederick’s most pivotal figureheads in bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman, whose vocal croon and croak will be quickly recognizable to anyone familiar with his work in Earthride, or Weed is Weed, though of course his pedigree goes back further to the likes of King Valley, Wretched, Shine/Spirit Caravan, and so on. Completed by drummer Tony Saunders, who played on Internal Void‘s demo in 1995 and Minds Eye before and after that, as well as Trilogy and presumably others, and ace-in-the-hole guitarist Brian Virts, Galactic Cross are a recent advent with obviously deeper roots, and there’s sense of connection that permeates their songwriting, whether it’s the grungey riffing of penultimate hooky rocker “Queen of the Damned” or the earlier punk-via-Motörhead burst of “Electric Ghost.”

Pressed through to vinyl Energy Ring Records with lush artwork by Norb Czufis and Martin Kenny, the eight-song/32-minute long-player carries a brisk sonic clarity — brought to bear by Kenny Eaton at Monrovia, MD’s Mystery Ton Studios with mixing by Brad Divens (Fixintogetmixin Studio) and mastering by Carlos Silva (C1 Mastering) — and finds the three-piece fluidly shifting between tempos and weaving in elements of classic Maryland-style doom amid the more heavy rock-minded impulses, beginning almost in medias res with a quick drum introduction and quickly locked-in groove on opener and longest track (immediate points) “Spellbound.”

The leadoff features a highlight melodic vocal from Sherman as well as some C.O.C.-style sweeping backup vocals, but it’s also the first of several standout performances from Virts, who plays guitar with the technical precision of someone who’s genuinely spent years studying the craft — about three seconds of research reveals he’s the owner of the Moon Star Guitars shop — and who brings soul and suitable purpose to solos and riffs alike. On the subsequent “Lonely Unicorn,” Saunders casually tosses out impressive fills in one-after-another fashion between measures as the central rhythm is established in a start-stop roll that the subsequent guitar-led instrumental “Nominal Confusion” seems only too happy to perpetuate. “Spellbound” had a bit more blues to its proceedings, with fuzz on the bass and the vocal effects, but the subtly shifting tempo en route to “Electric Ghost” is something listeners might miss at first but that becomes essential to the overarching flow of Galactic Cross as a whole.

As its arrangements are largely straightforward, relying more on basic songcraft than the pedal board or other studio chicanery to make a point that one imagines sounds no less vital coming from the stage, things like those changes in tempo become essential the band’s ability to create a sense of variety in their approach, which they succeed in doing. The malleability of Sherman‘s voice between the catchy “Lonely Unicorn” and a cut like “Electric Ghost” — also the shortest on the album at 2:28 — is not to be understated in its importance in this either.

Galactic Cross Galactic Cross front back

That side A closer is a rager and he meets the task of keeping up with Saunders‘ gallop, the sudden finish of the song only appropriate in sealing the deal of what the first half of the album was pushing toward. Another turn arrives in the intertwined acoustic and electric guitar of “Inter-Dimensional,” which lands in a swampy kind of psychedelia with what sounds like jaw harp in the background reminiscent of nighttime frog calls. It’s instrumental, so basically an interlude or side B intro, depending on the format through which one is listening, but still longer than “Electric Ghost” and it allows Galactic Cross to work in more spacious elements they may build upon going forward. If their next album had a “Planet Caravan” of its own, it would be well earned.

“Hollywood Truther” is a high point as Sherman calls “guitar!” at around two minutes in and Virts answers with another impressive stretch of soloing atop the steady roll of Saunders‘ drumming. The prevailing vibe is a return to the modus of “Spellbound” if perhaps a bit more tinged with classic doom in its main riff — something that the closing title- and eponymous “Galactic Cross” will push further — but between those two, “Queen of the Damned” touches on a straight-ahead rush of heavy rock that’s a well-placed and catchy energy kick.

One could make arguments for “Galactic Cross,” which is the only piece aside from the opener to run longer than five minutes, as being the best vocal performance Sherman has recorded to-date. He finds his place easily atop the slower progression and complements and is complemented by his bass and Virts‘ guitar, singing clean without necessarily losing the throaty edge that has heretofore defined him. He has made himself a singer as well as a frontman of marked charisma and personality. The chemistry shared among him, Virts and Saunders is writ large throughout Galactic Cross, even as a debut release, and neither should details like side A of the vinyl ending ultra-fast with “Electric Ghost” and side B ultra-slow with “Galactic Cross” pass unnoticed, as they speak to a consciousness of how the material is being presented to the listener that goes beyond the individual tracks themselves.

Maybe these guys are friends who’ve known each other for however long and finally decided to get a band going, I don’t know, and likewise, I don’t know their intentions from here on, but Galactic Cross portrays a sound worth continuing to expand and chase and develop as well as songs that, in the immediate, engage some of the signature components of Maryland heavy while setting out on their own path of heavy rock and hooks. Right on. Somebody please alert the local officials.

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One Response to “Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross: Ghosts of a New Dimension”

  1. Bruce says:

    I find the trend of bands only releasing their music on Spotify very disappointing. I don’t ‘I-‘ , ‘Face’, ‘Insta’ or ‘Spot’. So, as interesting as this sounds, I will probably pass on it. You want me to buy it? Put it on Bandcamp guys. Otherwise, well there are plenty of good bands out there.

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