Crisis

Deathshead Extermination

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In Chinese, the same symbol doubles for the words crisis and opportunity. This seemingly contradictory notion also provides the driving philosophy behind New York-based musical anarchists Crisis. Though essentially grounded in death metal, it's fair to say that Crisis' stunning second album, 1996's Deathshead Extermination, defies most attempts at categorization. All swirling basses, marshaling drum rolls, and cascading guitars, instrumental opener "Onslaught" is a good introduction for the controlled chaos about to ensue, but nothing can prepare listeners for the star of Crisis' sonic freak show that is outrageous vocalist Karyn Crisis. A true original, she employs a schizophrenic array of voices -- mostly death metal growls and clean-singing tones that are unexpectedly punctuated by piercing whoops and squeals -- to deliver her lyrical mish-mash of anti-establishment hatred and free-form existential poetry. At least half of her multiple personalities are raving lunatics, and the other half haven't yet been properly diagnosed, but suffice to say that listening to her is entertaining. Album highlights such as "Working out the Graves," "The Watcher," and the positively hysteric "Prisoner Scavenger" exploit this lunatic interplay between band and singer to the max, with only a few cuts (the groove-laden "Wretched" and the aggressively single-minded "Different Ways to Decay," in particular) in any way approaching conventional or even linear song structures. Faced with such nerve-jarring shock tactics, many listeners are likely to find all this chaos more interesting than necessarily good, but there's no denying the compelling challenge and inventive daring that fuels them. Though certainly not for everyone, Deathshead Extermination will delight fans of unorthodox heavy metal songwriting.

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