Review by Brian McGowan
In amongst all the Journey imitators and Survivor wannabes regularly released on the Frontiers Records label, you find a genuine gem. Crashdiet‘s ‘The Savage Playground’ is one such diamond. And it’s clear from this new release that while the band were dealing with life and death and rock’n’roll, they grew up.
The tragic suicide of Dave Leppard – heartache and grief aside – and the loss of Ollie Hermann to Reckless Love were body blows from which many bands would not have recovered. Determination, persistence, tenacity, all tumble out of the music on ‘The Savage Playground’. There is a purpose here that shines through the lacerating riffs, detonating drumbeats and bruising melodies. Yesterday’s youthful rebellion has now matured into focused tilts at the establishment. ‘Change The World’ and ‘Anarchy’ do some of the heavy lifting, energised by the spit and snarl of the disenfranchised.
And the music, the melodies, the arrangements, the production, all are compelling in their ambition and execution. They frequently reach for what Mark (Touch) Mangold once termed “that awesome melodic moment”, and almost without exception here, their grasp is the equal of their reach.
You wouldn’t think so, mind you, from the first few seconds of the opening track, ‘Change The World‘. A sinister, spoken intro describes the jungle in which we now live. Thus the album title. A yawningly clichéd notion I would think. Hardly an auspicious start. But when the words are gradually overwhelmed by thundering rhythms and an industrial strength riff, the album immediately accelerates from zero to hero, hitting escape velocity just as Simon Cruz’s caustic vocals join the fray.
‘Cocaine Cowboys’ and ‘Circus’ step up to the edge of genius, turning the tumult the band have experienced into passionate hard rock, brimful of sturdy melodies and barbed hooks. Otto Welton’s visceral, unpolished production ensures that sparks continue to fly on other standout tracks like ‘Lickin Dog’ and ‘Drinkin Without You’ as abrasive axe work strikes on heavy rhythms and Cruz’s emotionally charge vocals wail convincingly.
But the real standouts are ‘Got A Reason’ and ‘Snakes In Paradise’, for very different reasons. The latter’s brutal riff – laced with strings – drives a hulking bruiser of track, suggesting that the band have been listening to Led Zeppelin a lot since the last album. The former reins back the bombast, edging toward rock music with an adult resonance, spinning on a marvellous melody, tight harmonies and a sinuous hook. Outstanding.
‘The Savage Playground’ will disappoint those expecting ’Generation Swine’, Part 2. Crashdiet have moved on. Not out of choice but out of necessity.
9 out of 10
- Change The World
- Cocaine Cowboys
- Lickin Dog
- Sin City
- Got A Reason
- Drinkin Without You
- Snakes In Paradise
- Damaged Kid
- Garden Of Babylon