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“I’ve let what matters slip away, like grains of sand falling from my hands…all tomorrows are yesterdays.”
It’s only been the last few years that women in metal have been getting some attention, especially the lungs of the gender. Sure, they’ve been with us all along – an abridged list of early female singers harking the lighter edge of metal can be Lee Aaron, Lita Ford, Doro, Betsy Bitch, and Wendy O Williams (RIP – more punk, but hey). Even more scarce are pre-‘90s thrash voxwomen – Lori Bravo, easily the most brutal and grim of the bunch back then with demos (Nuclear Death), Katherine Thomas (The Great Kat – who for some retarded reason isn’t in the archives [ed. - but now is]), Lynda Simpson (Sacrilege), Debbie Gunn (Sentinel Beast/Znowhite), and our beloved Dawn Crosby (RIP). Sitting on the fence between lite and harsh was Leather Leone of Chastain. When it comes to male vocalists, one can make tablet-sized lists of them, even separating the good from the crappy. One can list all the females on the back of a business card. It is in this respect that the Californian Détente were relatively ahead of their time, predated only by Betsy, Gunn’s demos, almost Sacrilege’s ’85 debut and a small handful of others.
Take the guttural intro of Possessed’s “Pentagram”, throw two more demon-twisted voices on top of it and you have the start of “Losers” (which is what they’re saying) and Recognize No Authority. A traditional dynamic riff gongs the song’s entrance and is immediately up-ended by an urgent thrash delivery bands like Agent Steel were plowing things over with. Fuming riffs are mixed nicely with more conventional tempos to keep the pace guessing while Crosby clenches her fist and shrieks with sandpapery vengeance, a harsh shear that can peel chrome. I’ve heard her vocals described in many ways, the most inventive probably as the evil fourth Chipmunk, but when pitted against the other lungwomen of her time, there was little contest. “Russian Roulette” starts with a single quick note and triumphant scream only to pull the plug on the speed and introduce a more moderate, orthodox pace, a few interesting rhythms, and a screaming solo via Ross Robinson. The chorus is the centerpiece of the melodically thrashy “It’s Your Fate”, then there’s the brilliant “Holy War”, always my fave on the disk. Bass and high-hat slowly surface from silence, a scream rips, and a great rhythm is cast into the night. Oddly, the speed slowly quickens all the while a wild solo is wailing and seamlessly continues into the next verse. The wordless “Catalepsy” is a fairly short rhythm-shifting, speed menace closing side one.
Commencing side two, Dawn’s vocals seem to gain a slightly higher pitch in the double bass dominated “Shattered Illusions”, noticeable especially in the chorus. “Life is Pain” stalks sound waves with a lethargic gait that envelops most of the song with the exception off a few short stints of velocity where the chorus dwells. At this point, it’s evident the last three tracks are running out of steam which could have been corrected by better song placement. Since two of the three were written during their demo days, it can’t be said their energy or creativity was spent. Instead, they placed their weakest songs last and all three hinge on the fateful branding of filler. “Blood I Bleed” speeds along with a very conventional and uninteresting rhythm that even Crosby’s short, uncharacteristic bursts of fairly clean notes can’t decorate. Similar in direction is “Widows Walk” with the singing at perhaps its highest, most strained and reaching pitch. This vocal timbre carries over to final track “Vultures in the Sky”, most evident in the chorus. Ending this album with “Holy War” or another powerful tune would’ve kept side two afloat, but instead drifts off and has a hard time keeping its head above water.
While Recognize No Authority will never be considered a thrash classic, it does hold its own with at least five or six of the ten tracks being a harsh stimulation of thrash songwriting, power and energy. Sure, that may be around 50%, but it’s the quality of that percentage that can award higher marks. Dawn Crosby would die of liver complications due to alcohol abuse at the tail end of ’96, long after Détente was laid to rest and her later project, Fear of God, was trying to find an identity.