One of the few silver linings of the pandemic shutting down the entire concert industry for a prolonged stretch was that it occasionally prompted longtime musician friends to collaborate in projects they might not have had time for otherwise. Sometimes the results sound so natural—as they do in local rock powerhouse Black Cross Hotel—that it feels like they should’ve been playing together all along. Formed by synth player Andrew Ragin of the Atlas Moth and guitarist Marcus Eliopulos of Stabbing Westward, who bonded over their shared love for Killing Joke and classic 80s horror movies, this supergroup of sorts also includes Atlas Moth drummer Mike Miczek, Whipped vocalist Dee DeEmme, and bassist and producer Sanford Parker.
Black Cross Hotel’s brand-new LP, Hex, is a shivery delight that’s perfect for drawing out creepy and spooky vibes. Each track is a deep dive into the metaphorical underpinnings and outsider perspective baked into the horror genre, and DeEmme (who’s nonbinary) explores cult classics such as The Thing, The Fog, and Halloween II from a queer perspective—a very rich field of inquiry (see also the Queer for Fear documentary series by Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller on Shudder). On the album’s grinding first single, “Windows,” the monster of The Thing becomes a sympathetic presence amid chiming guitars and pulsing synths. But sympathy for the hunter turns into empathy with the hunted in “The Fugitive,” with its provocative, chilling buildups, surging hard-rock momentum, and needling, desperate synths. Black Cross Hotel flex their full fury with “138,” a swaggering stadium-size cover of the Misfits’ “We Are 138,” while erie synth waves cradle and support the crunchy metal riffs of “Hitchhiker.”
It’d be a shame if a debut this self-assured were a one-off, and I was glad to hear this won’t be the last we hear from Black Cross Hotel—the band have said they’ve already written another album’s worth of songs. But for now, we get to celebrate Hex at this record-release party, which features a solid bill of local acts: noise-rock trio Salvation, melodic hardcore quartet Canadian Rifle, and postpunk band Pink Frost, who released an album of their own, Until the Summer Comes, in September.
Black Cross Hotel Salvation, Pink Frost, and Canadian Rifle open. Mon 11/14, 8:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, free, 21+