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Surviving the Siren - 92%

demonomania, March 11th, 2005

Yeah, I know there is a whole lotta hatin' goin' on in terms of Crisis on this website. The main reason for this accumulated ire is Karyn's vocals, which I must admit you either love or hate. However, very few singers in metal can mix the clean with the evil without sounding cheezy, and Karyn's ability to go from a higher-range, almost operatic voice straight into the depths of hell, all in an instant - is praiseworthy. In this album she sings in a burly, almost tough-guy tone for the majority, but kicks it to the opera style, the serpentine rasp, and the low, brutal death vox to mix things up. One vocal technique she uses - a strange squealing sound, is thankfully absent on this disc.

Damn, that was a lot of talking just about her voice. But that is the central element of Crisis - it is what makes them stand apart. It conveys multiple personalities that Karyn's lyrics deal with, and gives you a glimpse inside her as well. By the way, if you have a chance to catch Crisis in concert - DO SO - they put on one hell of a show. I saw them with Eyehategod at CBGB's, needless to say, it was a good night. Musically, the album is dark and heavy - there is little of the pure thrash present on their first big release - more of a doom, death, and death 'n roll thrashiness sound here. For that reason I believe it is their best - the new one is not too accessible for first time listeners, and the old one features some repetition and that bizzarro squeal in abundance.

While all of the songs on this album are pretty good, and it is easy to sit through, there are definitely some standouts. The opener "Mechanical Man" gets right down to business, fast, rough, kickass. "The Vision and the Verity" is quite good as well, check out the lyrics - "I cut out my heart, just the other day/ Held it in my hand, said it doesn't work that well anyway." Rad guitar part here. There's another something to focus on - the lyrics are quite good - typical Karyn without being overdone, and no moronic gore or satanism (though I love both, mind you). The instrumental "After the Flood" is soothing, with the sounds of a hammer pounding something in the background - your guess is as good as mine. "Take the Low Road" is the last high-point on the disc - good thrasy parts mixed with solid drumming, harsh deathy moments too. And hey - Crisis' drummer is very underrated. He can do it all, slow to blast.

Now for the best two songs - "Kingdom's End," for the amazing last minute of the song alone. The interplay between vocals and instruments, the stop-start guitars, the repeated "when this chemical lung gives out, I'll be living at my body's mercy," that eventually ends in a cool distorted outtro - FUCK YEAH. Perhaps the most amazing tune on here, however, is "Surviving the Siren." Karyn busts out all of her vocal techniques to amazing effect - the gremlin, the cookie monster, the opera diva - it's all here. The lyrics are great, taking Odysseus' confrontation with the sirens and adapting it to a person who foolishly follows their lust to their own destruction. The drumming is completely crazy, and the whole things just devolves into organized chaos at the end, brought back only by Karyn's beautiful voice repeating the chorus. Yowsa. If this doesn't stay with you, nothing will.

In closing, if you've heard some bad things about Crisis but don't necessarily take things that 80's metalheads and grind freaks say too seriously, check this one out. It has a very consistent atmosphere, great performances by all of the band members, and Karyn at her most evocative. Good stuff.