Friday, July 16, 2010

Crusher - Corporal Punishment (1992)

As someone who followed Noise Records like a hawk in the 80s and early 90s (it was possibly my favorite metal label), I am surprised to have missed the efforts from this band that were licensed through the label. Perhaps I just saw the bland, abysmal cover image for this debut album and mentally blocked out any and all curiosity. Either way, Crusher were an obscure French death metal band that likely ranked among the first entrants of that nation into the genre, along with the mighty Loudblast. They perform a pretty typical style for the time, mixing the old school death of Obituary, Death and Autopsy with a grinding edge very reminiscent of Napalm Death, who by 1992 had dropped their savage punk/grindcore and were released some solid death metal in Harmony Corruption and Utopia Banished.

Personally, I've got a lot more love for the former style than the latter, and thus I can immerse myself in Corporal Punishment more when they're slower and more effective, like the intro to the title track, or the crawling moments in "Action Speaks Louder Than Words", or the section surrounding the lead near the climax of "Infanticide". The riff writing is never quite that superb, but the band knew how to successfully emulate their heroes to decent effect, and you'll find your head bobbing and nodding when they bust out some shrill lead or somewhat evil old school rhythm that felt like an outtake from Leprosy, Scream Bloody Gore or Slowly We Rot. A point in case is "Adventure for Sale", which is a pretty damn good death metal song.

The band is also not so shabby at their faster mix of grind and thrash metal, ala the blitz of "Sense of Powerlessness" or the raging "All for a Holy Cause", which both feel like a mix of early Suffocation, Benediction and dawn of the 90s Napalm Death. Again, the riffs feel like simple deviations of albums that had already manifested by 1992, but they're constructed well enough that you would not become so bored when listening. The catch here is that this is a band with lyrics heavily based in politics and social issues of its time, again like Napalm Death or a wealth of thrash influences. So if you're expecting songs about mummies, gore, decay, rot, or shambling flesh-eating corpses and long winded ruminations on the occult or the H.P. Lovecraft mythos, you're better served elsewhere. These guys are more motivated by their concern for the world than the dank air of crypts, catacombs and horror.

The vocals of Crass were a standard, low grunting affair like a more muted Barney Greenway, and the guitar tones here are quite dense and ominous enough to please fans of British death metal like Bolt Thrower and Benediction. They don't grind their music into a pulp, instead taking brief flashes of speed that cover a particular verse or segment, so you won't just me numbed by any mindless blasting. That said, the band was simply not distinct enough to make a larger ripple across the blossoming, organ-strewn death metal renaissance that exploded below the more mainstream success of a Cannibal Corpse or Morbid Angel in the 90s. These days, French death metal is quite common, and also quite excellent, with bands like Yyrkoon, Gorod, Carcariass and Gurkkhas leading the charge, but it's interesting to look back at some of the lesser bands that tried to help pave the way. Crusher was not a bad band whatsoever, but the deck was not stacked in their favor and they dissolved within just a few years, this being their sole full-length release.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]

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