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Karyn Crisis: artist, pioneer, martyr, visionary. One of the first and most compelling of all female metal vocalists. A woman who endured as much scorn and abuse as she did accolades and acclaim. From the share of negative reviews gracing this entry, her detractors are still out in full force. It is a shame really. Crisis crawled and scraped their way out of the NYC gutters to create a small but loyal cult of fans willing to accept a female-fronted metal band. Their music was niche but they forced their way forward, sharing the stage with acts cutting a swath across all styles and genres of heavy music. They were unparalleled live, the band literally opening its veins and rubbing its wounds raw onstage. From 1993 to 1998, Crisis (along with fellow NYC sludge mavens 13) opened the door for women in metal, creating several memorable albums of artistically interesting hybrid death-thrash along the way. Then they split up and the door they had opened was kicked down by others. Like many of the earliest pioneers in music, Crisis's accomplishments were little acknowledged. Other bands, with slicker music, hogged up the spotlight.
Crisis returned in 2004 to much press and belated acclaim with "Like Sheep Led To Slaughter," an album I had keenly anticipated for years and never really believed would arrive. When the staccato drums of 'Waking The Dead' slashed across my eardrums, I know it was for real. Crisis was back and as deadly as ever. 'Waking The Dead' features everything that makes a great Crisis song: sharp, crisp rhythms; stabbing riffs sliding between simple and technical; Karyn's voice finding the balance on her teeter-totter of ethereal and brutal. Her voice is capable of just about anything -- guttural death-roars, pixieish lilting sing-song, horrific shrieks, monotone spoken-word, barking rasps. She has a deep arsenal and unleashes it all, often within the context of the single song. Many find this off-putting but I find it fascinating.
'Graveyard of Bitches' continues Crisis's theme of proto-feminist song-writing, turning the power dynamics inherent in most metal on their head. This song has a more pronounced hardcore style, their earlier affiliations with the fringes NYHC scene creeping through in the splash-cymbal breakdown that leads into a complete 180 clean-picking part, haunting and almost Middle Eastern sounding before devolving into a roar of imploding violence.
'Blood Burden' is an absolute highlight, a skull-crushing stomper that gets my heart pounding in seconds. If the music is slightly simpler than what appeared on their earlier recordings, it is also far more accessible without sacrificing the overall integrity of the music. Crisis haters I knew totally got down to this song when they heard it performed live.
'Secrets of the Prison House' is positively epic, a raw southern dirge, dirty and slimy. Karyn vomits her most powerful vocal performance here, a literal retch of vileness full of seething rage and discontent. This song is brilliant, particularly the clean interlude towards the end, allowing for a catch of breath before the sewer overflows again. You'll feel like you need a shower after.
Billy Anderson's production on this record is perfect. The guitars sound dirty and heavy. The bass is audible, beefing up the riffs considerably. The drums are tight and crisp. Karyn's voice is front and center, perfectly balanced, her entire range audible and strong. This is one of his many masterful recordings and Crisis's second-best album after "The Hollowing."
...take it easy there, gang. This CD really is not too bad at all. Sure, Crisis have strayed a bit from the death/thrash style that they started out with, but other than that this band can still lay it down. Check out "Secrets of the Prison House" to hear what I mean - an epic, brutal, and intelligent track that shows all the facets of the band and Karyn's voice.
And by the way, if that is everyone's big problem with this album, then I guess you don't like Crisis. Karyn's voice is what it is - CRAZY, unpredictable, off the wall, going everywhere from LOW as hell to BEAUTIFUL. So if you can't stand that type of vocals, then you won't like this disc, don't get all mad and call this band worthless. If you've ever seen them live, you won't be of this opinion.
Obviously, I like Crisis. But I will admit that this is their weakest disc so far, it is somewhat uneven and the music does seem to have gone in a bit of a metalcore direction. Still, if metalcore is done well, and has SOME element to differentiate itself from a billion other clones, then what's the problem? In this case, some interesting riffs, the aforementioned vocals, and an experimental vibe set Crisis apart, and there are plenty of songs here to enjoy. "A Graveyard for Bitches" is rad, "Corpus Apocalypse" has a very cool part with Karyn sounding like a machine ("this is the pulse of a body rejecting itself"), "Nomad" and "Blood Burden" are good songs too. Plus, the combination of "Rats in A Maze" and 'Secrets of the Prison House," two tracks that are MADE TO COMPLIMENT EACH OTHER (caps due to negative earlier reviews) present a memorable highlight to the disc.
In conclusion, not as bad as everyone says, though certainly not Crisis' best. I mean, what the hell is up with the crappy song with guest vox from Dan Dismal? Bad. But there are certainly some very worthwhile tracks - this is certainly not an abomination or a waste of money or any other over-dramatic disease upon the face of metal that you might gather from what you may read from some Manowar fans. Check it out, but only if you are into something a little off the beaten path.
I want the time I spent listening to this CD back. I don't think I have ever heard anything as unlistenable as this in my life. Maybe some of Throbbing Gristle's stuff. Karyn Crisis, the vocalist, is probably the biggest reason for this. Her caterwauling is one of the single most annoying things these ears have heard. What is absolutely amazing is that she may have one of the widest ranges of any singer I've heard. On their website it says she has a very classical background and she easily has the voice for operatic compositions.
Crisis is a metalcore band however, and she uses every last bit of vocal range throughout the CD. One second is soprano wailing followed by bass gurgling that would make Anselmo blush. It's just so misguided and disorganized that all it does is annoy you after the first 30 seconds.
I would be willing to excuse this if the band was something cool to listen to. Alas, strike two. They do absolutely nothing to distinguish themselves and come off sounding like every other third rate metalcore band out there these days. I'm not even a fan of the production which seems to fade out the entire band when Karyn Crisis opens her mouth. Strangely enough, it was done by Billy Anderson. Strike three.
Listed as progressive hardcore, there aren't many listenable hardcore acts out there. Originally, this band was settled with a death influence, and had some great lyrics and music. However, with this release, it only leads fans and people to wonder...
The latest "Crisis" album, Like Sheep Led To Slaughter" is essentially what the fans are doing when they buy the album. The music is amazing, however, the vocalists progression leaves their sound far from the line of atleast a good album. In length, you get your money's worth. But in quality, the album severely lacks.
The main problem this album has has got to be the lack of harmony between the vocals and music themselves. The music would indicate singing, and you are greeted with off-tone screams. Or if you want a scream, you get a tone-deaf singing line. And the interludes throughout the album, such as the track 'Rats In A Maze'. No music, but simply vocals stating we are all rats in a maze in a melodic acapella style. However, at times the vocals are completely off, which can irritate the listener, making the song a good idea that could have worked.
The lyrics in the album are essentially the same as always; retaining that certain impact that makes you wonder. However, as you read through the book, some of them are just not necessary, or not at all related to the song whatsoever.
However, the album does have a few good songs on it that you will want to listen to one or two more times before you put the album in the old media rack. Songs like 'Waking The Dead' and 'Blood Burden' are more orientated to the style they started with, incorporating their new sound for a very well done and complex song with very few off-tone vocal keys.
So, if you are looking for a return to the good old days with this band, think again. Sure it has a few perks, but the downfalls of the album itself are really not worth the expense to own it. The die hard fans of both "Crisis" and hardcore music will eat this album up, but, for anyone else, wait until you can get it at your local used CD store.