Cross My Heart – Temporary Contemporary

Cross My Heart
Temporary Contemporary

I have mixed feelings about this, Cross My Heart’s first full-length album. At times, I think this band manages to play rock with high energy and to convey feeling better than almost any other band out there. At other times, I get the impression that they are a band that has been playing so long they feel the need to sound more artistic and thereby a bit pretentious. Every XMH release has taken me a few dozen listens to really get into, because their impeccable recording, tight playing, and the lofty, almost too-perfect vocals of Ryan Shelkett make me think that it’s almost too easy for this band.
On the other hand, Cross My Heart has come out of the shadows of the whole “emo” shadow with this release. While some of their earlier work showed an obvious inspiration of the Mineral and Sunny Day era bands, this album is all their own sound. Shelkett’s vocals are characteristically sweeping and soaring, often singing low and sometimes screaming with what the band is trying to get across. And, man, they’re so good when they’re playing fast and furious. Unfortunately, some of these songs get a bit slower and bogged down.
The album starts off with that kind of slower, more arty style on “The Great Depression, “with an almost 100 percent focus on Shelkett’s vocals. But it does pick up nicely, and once the driving, layered guitars and drums really kick in, the vocals picking up to the verge of shouting, the song shows how damn good this band is. Any fan of their earlier EP will feel comforted with “Tonight We’ll Light Ourselves On Fire,” probably this album’s best song, keeping the pace high and infused with impressive guitar work and vocals that don’t get carried away, even screaming frantically during the frenzied parts. But see, then “Paris” gets too slow, not so much the pretty, melodic slow that you know they can do, but the sparse, almost heartwrenching slow. Shelkett’s voice, as good as it is, just isn’t as good here, although it does shine when the song picks up for the chorus. I do love the line, “My life, I’m over it. Wait for the better day.” “London Bridge” reminds me of one of the faster tracks from the band’s EP, The Last Time I Failed History, fast but not too aggressive, with chugging, layered guitars. “With Bells On” shows the band’s maturity, coming across even tighter than usual, which I don’t care for as much as their more free, barely restrained style. And “Infinity Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” is the slowest I’ve heard from this band, soft and pretty with soft cello in the background, but it totally changes at the end and turns into one of the more driving and powerful songs. What a great track! Still, I have trouble with the uninspired “Self-Loathing Bastard” until the end when it picks up even more for the last 10 seconds or so. “Angels & Gargoyles” has a nice, almost electronic-sounding beat, and Shelkett’s vocals don’t soar away like they could on this slower track. The album doesn’t really finish on a high-note with relatively typical fare from this band, but it’s a nice, middle-of-the-road rocking track, not quite comparable to “Infinity” or “Tonight.”
I still hold by my comment in the review of the band’s first EP that this is what emo is all about today. This band plays the most emotional and powerful music being played today, whether they’re on the verge of screaming their hearts out of singing slow and personal. I prefer the former, for their power and aggressive rock is just amazing, but the band shows they are maturing on this release. It’s a ride definitely worth the price of admission.