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Interview: Grand Mongrel of Mongrel’s Cross

If you’re going to name your band something twisted and weirdly blasphemous, you have to be able to back it up. If the music is lackluster, your far-out name becomes a symbol, or an example, of everything that went wrong. The name  Mongrel’s Cross inspires images of rabid animals being crucified, or of Jesus as some hideous inbred yokel. If these songs are awesome, the name reigns as something diabolically different from the ordinary. If the music sucks, all a name like “Mongrel’s Cross” suggests is a skipped English-as-a-Second-Language class.

Luckily, Mongrel’s Cross play intoxicating, old-school blackened thrash, mixing disharmony and infectious melodies to create a kickass blast of darkness. Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, the three-piece recently released their album, The Sins of Aquarius, on Hell’s Headbangers, the perfect label for their brand of creeping death. Answering my questions via e-mail, frontman Grand Mongrel took the time to explain the band’s album title, describe the beauty of his homeland, and call me a poof.

— Scab Casserole

SCAB CASSEROLE: To begin, give me a little background on the formation of Mongrel’s Cross. How’d you three come together? What mutual influences are you putting into this music?

GRAND MONGREL: The three hell hounds, myself, Necros Craigos and Goet Euryn formed  in 2009. Goet Euryn and I have been long-term mates. We met Necros Craigos at a show, talked about music and found that we all had similar views about metal. We started jamming on our demo material shortly after. We’re on the same page in terms of our influences. We all grew up listening to early 90’s black, death, thrash, and Kylie Minogue.

The Sins of Aquarius immediately makes me think of the hippie movement—“This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius”—but the album’s atmosphere is obviously the exact opposite. Where does the title come from?

Yes, the title is a reference to the Age of Aquarius, but in a religious sense. The liberation from a God figure that man has been given through his exploration of nature, the human mind, etc, has allowed him to engage in activities that were previously socially and certainly religiously taboo. Sins, in other words. It is his enemy who injects such compulsions into his children and their pathetic struggle with that makes up the concept of the album. It revels in the fact that modern man, smug and so enlightened, has been led astray by his own ego, and the old goat couldn’t be more proud of this achievement.

You strike a balance between modern black metal, old-school death metal, and thrash. How do you find the place that hits all three? Is it a conscious effort to merge these influences?

Definitely, and I’m glad you have mentioned this. We try to include all of those mediums as they make up the core of our musical interests. That diversity creates a unique sound and at the same time pays homage to the past.

The solo at the beginning of “Lead Them To The Promised Land” is amazing, and has a really old-school groove to it. Is it hard injecting soul into such crushing, warlike music?

Not at all. Although we drive our sound towards a hell-banging assault, melody is very important to us as well. We feel that many bands deliberately ignore melody as it is seen as being “pretty.”  We feel that if utilised properly, it can evoke a more engaging response from the listener.

For a three-piece, you bring a powerful sound. Have you ever considered adding a second guitarist?

Apart from our very early shows, we have always had a second guitarist live. Sins is our first offering with a dual guitar assault and myself and Goet Euryn worked together on the composition. On stage I drop the axe as I feel I can’t put as much power into my vocal delivery. We have two good mates, Baaruhl, guitar, and Mordance, bass, who take up arms for live combat.

Tell me about the production—it’s really lush, not too lo-fi or buzzy. Were you working heavily, if at all, with a producer?

Baaruhl set up a home studio in his garage and we were the guinea pigs for his venture into recording. He is very meticulous so we were not at all worried about his ability to give us a completely fucked up and punishing sound. We didn’t model the sound off anything in particular; instead we took the approach of finding the right sound for the atmosphere of the album.

Australia has a long history with extreme metal, especially blackened thrash. Why do you think that is? What about being from Australia informs your music?

Our isolation from the world scene has allowed us to forge our own identity and I think that’s how we’ve been able to claim a sound of our own. That and the fact we aren’t shy of a beer. In terms of Mongrel’s Cross, Goet Euryn and I grew up in an area north of the city which has incredible landscapes, beaches and hinterland, but very small minds. Fat Records bands were the choice of the masses but we were looking for something else, something with more substance, which led us down our path. Also, it’s a mostly conservative environment which breeds the born-agains, so our disdain for them began very early on.

What’s the Brisbane scene like as opposed to, say, Melbourne or Sydney?

Every city has its maniacs and whenever we’re interstate it’s just like being at a gig in Brisbane. Brisbane certainly has one of the more active and interesting scenes at present, however.

I’m a complete ignorant yankee—describe to me the average Australian metalhead.

Shit, I don’t know, we just drink piss and listen to metal, poof.

How much of a live band is Mongrel’s Cross? What’s an average show like? Are there plenty of places to play in your neck of the woods, or do you have to look elsewhere?

We enjoy playing live as it gives people an opportunity to experience Mongrel’s in a different way, but writing and recording music is our preferred outlet. There has been a lack of places to play in Brisbane at the moment, as dickhead club/pub owners think that metal gigs are going to be trouble when it’s fucking hip hop or dance shows that are going to have punch-ons and o.d’ing hommas in parachute pants. There is one venue just outside the city that is currently putting on good shows, however, and the majority of bands coming through have played there.

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