Monday 15 May 2023

Crime Scene - Dark Tidings (2023)

Country: Belgium/USA
Style: Crossover
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Mar 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Instagram | Metal Archives

It's time for another transatlantic week, I believe, with each day covering something from the USA and something from the UK. This is something of a cheat because the majority of Crime Scene are from Antwerp in Belgium, including guitarist PC who put the band together to tackle songs he had lying around during COVID. However, while he's known for Toxic Shock, that's the Belgian crossover band of the present day than the German thrash band of that name that I know from the eighties and nineties, so the biggest name here is surely the vocalist, Jerry A from punk band Poison Idea, who are from Portland, Oregon. So hey, it counts.

This is definitely a lot more metal than Poison Idea, who demonstrated serious chops on guitar and bass for a punk band but never pretended to be anything but straight ahead punk. These musicians behind Jerry A lay down some controlled thrash metal, mostly at a slow to mid-pace but with some faster sections, so while his voice is recognisable, this doesn't sound remotely like Poison Idea. It's part of the point, I'm sure, because he's been doing a lot of collaborative work lately that doesn't play in the style he's known for.

I do prefer my thrash fast, but this pace works for Crime Scene and it works for the punk vocals laid over the top, which is precisely how they did this. The Belgian contingent recorded all the music in October 2020 in a studio in Laakdal, but Jerry A recorded his vocals completely separately, and at a different time, five thousand miles and six months away, in Portland in early 2021. I have no idea if they knew all each other beforehand or have got together since then to play these songs live, but I have to say that it sounds like they're one band in one physical space.

As a metalhead at heart, I'm always going to be paying more attention to those metal instruments than the punk vocals, but the Belgians are mostly content to sit back and play the supporting role, generating riffs and keeping the pit moving. Dave Hubrechts gets some decent solos but nobody's spending a lot of time in the spotlight. They're there to do a job and they do it well, cleanly in the technical, often chugging style of the Bay Area. They leave the attitude to Jerry A, who seems to be on point and in the moment throughout, whatever the lyrical content and some of that definitely speaks to neither being on point nor in the moment.

It's pretty clear that Never Stop, for instance, speaks to his time in Poison Idea just as much as the many other bands who found that they may have had all the talent in the world but came up short on discipline, losing themselves in alcohol or worse. It's not a hopeful song, kicking off with a dark line, "It looks like the same, same day when I drink myself to sleep" and doesn't get more positive as it goes. It's not an affirmation song, it's an illustration of a tough reality. It doesn't offer hope, just kinship, I guess.

And the rest of the EP follows suit, this comprising five tracks and sixteen minutes. Four are short but sweet at very close to the traditional three minutes and Never Stop wraps up the EP at almost four and a half, elongated by an emphatic ending that kicks in around the three minute mark and makes it seem like we're in a warzone, with sirens, feedback, smashing glass and repetition of the title that turns it into a sort of protest chant that we shouldn't listen to when our shadows hurl it at us. It's a powerful ending to a powerful song.

And that's about it, because sixteen minutes isn't a long time to do much out of the ordinary, with the genre not known for that anyway. This is crossover, thrash metal instrumentation with a punk vocal, so it's straightforward stuff, just done capably well. I haven't heard this style in quite a long time, because the trends are more towards more aggression, with heavier groove metal behind a hardcore shout. This is old school, like the early crossover bands I remember from the New York of the mid-eighties, and I like that. It's good to hear the style again as it used to be.

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