• Sammy O'Hagar

demon haunted worldDan Lilker is, to use a technical term, a badass motherfucker. As a founding member of Anthrax and un-PC crossover thrashsters S.O.D. and longtime bassist for Nuclear Assault, he had a significant hand in keeping metal filthy in a time when toy poodle hair and Day-Glo spandex were the norm. With deathgrind innovators Brutal Truth and grind supergroup Venomous Concept, he helped build upon the metal he himself innovated, synthesizing punk and hardcore in a way only someone with a true understanding of both could do. A prolific sideman in a lot of awesome/important bands (as well as a pretty decent bassist), Lilker is perhaps one of metal’s great unsung heroes. So, in theory, he’s entitled to a dud album by a lackluster band every now and again. And Crucifist, his shot at black metal, certainly tests his lifetime pass. And though its failures aren’t what plague other prominent musicians’ ill-fated black metal side projects – a lack of understanding of the genre and/or the inability to decide whether it’s paying tribute to or taking the piss out of it – that doesn’t stop Crucifist from being ultimately incredibly dull overall.

Points certainly go to the band for authenticity, both in production (while not basement-quality, its rawness has a refreshing lack of polish) and style (not a truer-than-thou frosty blastfest, but instead a proto-black metal, riff-heavy jaunt reminiscent of Celtic Frost or a cleaner Blaze In the Northern Sky-era Darkthrone), as well as having a grammatically correct debut album title (Demon-Haunted World). But while there’s nothing offensively bad about the band (unless raspy vocals bother you, in which case there’s that), there’s nothing particularly great about them either. The C-grade sludgy, blackened thrash riffs tend to blend together more often than not, and there’s very little of merit to grab on to. Even atmosphere-builders like “Neon Corpse” come off more like a diversion from Demon-Haunted World’s overall blah-ness than an actual attempt to enrich its surroundings. It’s not bad, but considering the label it’s being released on (Profound Lore, home of some of black metal’s more challenging and interesting bands) and the hype behind it, it should be a lot better.

The worst thing about it, however, is “Witchgrip.” A fine, fine slab of blackened thrash, the song piles on riff after brilliant riff in a loose and effortless fashion, with vocalist Ron “The Rondertaker” Blackwell going gloriously over the fucking top. It’s black metal that’s wonderfully unpretentious and, dare I say, fun, and a surprisingly flooring and awesome song for the entirety of its four minutes and forty-five seconds. It makes you wish that THIS was the album Crucifist made instead of the great big slab of “So the fuck what?” that showed up in its place.

It’s a shame, but one shouldn’t worry about Mr. Lilker: the one consistently great thing about Demon-Haunted World is his lush bass sound. Maybe Crucifist will get it together and release an album as ass-kickingly wonderful as “Witchgrip,” but more likely, they’ll be a footnote to what is already a pretty great career. Oh well. We’ll always have Brutal Truth, apparently.

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(2 out of 5 horns)


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