Songs-of-the-Third-and-FifthTen years after their last album, to say Adelaide's The Mark Of Cain still conveys a wrecking ball punch is like saying China has a lot of people. TMOC occupies the space where hardcore, punk and metal collide and makes unique with a lyrical heaviness that makes listening to Black Sabbath a Sunday walk in the park. This is a band that projects more menace in the space of nine songs than most manage over as many albums.

Critics are lazy shits. The military analogies might have been beaten to death with a baseball bat many, many times and they're being trotted out again, but what's wrong with applying them when the K-rations have been cooked this well? The band doesn't retreat from using them (and at last report bass player Kim Scott worked for the Australian Defence Force) so let's fall into formation.

How else do you describe music with such a precise, uncompromising attack? There's an overpowering fluidity behind all that those ominous overtones with John Scott's fevered stream-of-consciousness vocal snaking through the tunes like the killer the victim never saw until it was way too late. Taken in one dose over its 42 minutes, "Songs of the Third And Fifth" does sound like a division of Panzer tanks roaring over the Russian steppes.

The point must be made that TMOC has never sounded better. Vocalist-guitarist John Scott co-produced this with promoter/impressario Tim Pittman. The output is monstrous and, sonically speaking, leaves "Ill At Ease" sounding comparatively anaemic. Dense walls of guitar that breathe aren't easy to construct.

"Barkhammer" is an obvious lead-off single and melds a storming chorus with a sound that's thicker than a fall-out shelter wall. "Grey 11" coaxes old TMOC pal Henry Rollins to the microphone for good effect. "Heart of Stone" sounds like an exhumed Ian Curtis wrestling with a battalion of flamethrower guitars. Guess who wins? "1000 Yards" is the sound of a deep psychosis bubbling up - or being buried. You can make the call on that.

A special mention for John Stanier's killer drumming. This guy locks in with his partner-in-rhythm to lay down an uncompromising bedrock that's driving the beat but still swings. Anyone with nous knows a band lives or dies by its engine. TMOC has one of the best in the business. No wonder they burned through so many drummers back in the day.

TMOC is not a fulltime concern. This recording was three years in the making and members tour during down-time from day job careers. It might be a romantic notion in these times but can you imagine how intense "Songs Of The Third and Fifth" would be if this is all the trio did for a living? Scratch that thought - odds are they'd tackle their music with the same degree of commitment, regardless of how was paying the bills.

Someone recently tagged TMOC as "alt.metal" whatever that means. This is the closest we get to playing metal. That's telling in itself.


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