Crossover/thrash metal hybrids a’la Suicidal Tendencies can be a pain to review and this San Francisco Bay Area quitet was no different on their unremarkable EP "Feed The Birds". This is why "Imperial Cult" is such a jawdropping surprise, balancing Darkest Hour’s melodicism and feeling against brute force of Slayer.

Pissed Regardless was formed in 2013, immediately debuting with the eponymous demo, followed by "Force Fed Gods" (2015) and "Feed The Birds" EP. Familiar with the latter, I reviewed it, very unimpressed with the content. I don’t know if Matt Gerken (vocals), Sean Walker (guitar), Chris Kitchen (guitar), Taylor Hewson (bass) and Tim Whetsel (drums) read my review or not but "Imperial Cult", while flawed, is everything its predecessor wasn’t in every way, minus the lyrics which are even more severely profane.

First off – the sound, full, powerful, grating, clear, an amalgamate of "Undoing Ruin" Darkest Hour and "Divine Intervention" Slayer, whereby Pissed Regardless are no longer crossover but still thrash metal, with added distinct metalcore influences. The new hybrid allowed for equal parts melody and power, with some of the most exciting "walking while empowered" riffs since Slayer’s" Killing Fields". The finest examples of this concoction are, the favorite, "Behold A Pale Horse" – lyrically based around an American nursery rhyme "Ring A Ring O’Rosies" (itself written about the Bubonic Plague), with some great "Cleansing" Prong melodic transitions – and "Dichotomy" with a Black Sabbath-ian intro and Will Haven/Incubus bass lines. Now, the third standout, the closer, "Hell’s Coming With Me", is a totally different bucket of fish, a ballad-ic George Orwell-ian "Animal Farm/1984" spoken word turned severe post hardcore so eerily Darkest Hour-ic (complete with a total John Henry impersonation) it might as well have come from "Goddless Prophets And The Migrant Flora" or "The Human Romance". The rest of the songs keep that high standard from which the final score is derived

Outside of the, at times, too close for comfort similarity to Darkest Hour, Killswitch Engage or Hatebreed, some of the tracks appear half-written, such as the opener, "Three Decades", the "Them Bones" Alice In Chains-ian punkcore of "All Bets Are Off", the "So What" Metallica of "Castrated" or the noisy, chaotic, "Maniacal". These songs are short and, although they may provide a sense of variety, they smack of their older, decidedly less compelling material.

Any way you slice it, there’s no denying the fact that this San Diego troop blew me away with their new approach, indeed, a powerful impeachment of your modern world, to butcher Matt’s closing chant. A fan of both Darkest Hour and Slayer will find "Imperial Cult" a delightful addition to their catalogue, despite some shortcomings.