Thrash metal and hardcore punk have always been inextricably tied. The distance they’ve both traveled has taken the two genres into drastically different places, but at the heart of both are disfranchised youth (particularly during the Reagan era) playing power chords as fast and as aggressively as humanly possible. The details are what separate them, but even those sometimes seem negligible; whether your denim vest has a Crass patch or an Exodus patch, you’re essentially showing off your solidarity to the mosh-pit brotherhood.
Richmond, Virginia’s Iron Reagan surely understands this. The group is fronted by Tony Foresta of Municipal Waste, a band that plays a similarly concise and snotty brand of crossover thrash, while their thrashy hardcore recalls ’80s-era innovators such as D.R.I. and Cro-Mags. Once you strip away the stylized, tremolo-heavy guitar solos, Iron Reagan is mostly a hardcore band at heart, and one that’s a lot of fun to listen to. And though their name references a long-dead, long-villainized American figurehead (as well as one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time), their ass-kicking, snot-nosed middle-finger wagging seems especially relevant given the current occupant of the White House.
Iron Reagan aren’t a political band in any explicit sense, though their “fuck everything” sensibility is an infectious one to be sure. On third album Crossover Ministry, their latest for Relapse, the band piledrives their way through 18 tracks of often-jokey, always furious thrash and hardcore, generally at a speed that never lets up—not until the designated circle-pit sections, anyhow. And anything and everything is set in their crosshairs, be it the annoying suburbanites that won’t let them play loud music all night in “Fuck the Neighbors” (complete with a silly sketch from the polite squares next door) or life itself, as the cemetery youth of “Dead With My Friends” profess.
The nihilism on display on Crossover Ministry is particularly enjoyable, if knowingly stupid at times. And in a sense that goofball spirit is what makes the band even easier to like. But the album has more than its share of excellent tracks, be it the menacing chug of “Bleed the Fifth,” the rollicking gallop of “Grim Business” or the melodic, Suicidal Tendencies-like satire of “Megachurch.” Even in the band’s less-than-a-minute explosions, however, there’s plenty to sink one’s rabid, bloodthirsty teeth into, if only for a moment. But Iron Reagan isn’t about going the distance—they’re about living in the moment, tearing it to shreds, and burning down what’s left.