Throughout the history of French death metal few pockets of lasting impact remain as underappreciated as the short lived stable of Semetery Records bands including key releases from Loudblast, No Return, and the criminally underrated evolution of Crusher. Born on the far eastern edge France in the city of Mulhouse as a hardcore punk band, Frayeurs couldn’t’ contain their heavier ambitions for long as their ‘Frayeurs or Die’ (1989) demo already resembled something far darker and rabid, not far from Cryptic Slaughter. How did they up the ante on ‘A Step Forward?’ (1990) demo? A mixture of crossover thrash and some unhinged first wave black metal sounds as they attempted their first stabs at death metal. They were beyond hungry for their place in French death metal at that point and with ‘Collective Hypnosis’ (1991) demo their world changed as a mixture of Blood and Napalm Death-esque brutal deathgrind and hints of Loudblast‘s first two full-lengths creeped into Frayeurs‘ sound. This third demo would be enough reason to change the band’s name and fully commit to the death metal sound they’d developed and what name could be more fitting for their style than Crusher?
When you press play on an album like ‘Corporal Punishment’ it should immediately hit you what a creative peak for rhythm guitar 1992 was as thrash metal died and death metal and grindcore struck like nukes across the world. It is no secret that France had been invaded by the likes of Carcass, Morbid Angel, and Death by then but you’ll feel the hammers of ‘Harmony Corruption’ era Napalm Death within drummer Charly Moniz‘ fantastic work throughout Crusher‘s early discography. The guitar work might generally act as a more brutal companion to compatriots No Return‘s ‘Contamination Rises’ LP and again touches upon some of the semi-melodic movements of ‘Disincarnate’ from Loudblast but Crusher were doing just as much of their own thing as they continued to evolve.
“Collective Hypnosis” shows that Crusher were still a young group of fellows that were sorting out the rhythms of their craft in 1991 and as an opener for ‘Corporal Punishment’ it merely kicks off the instant mental correlations with similar British ‘punk-to-death metal’ progressions made by Benediction and Bolt Thrower. As the album continues this thread of punkish, thrashing brutality Crusher inserts a handful of newer compositions that have more in common with Gorefest and even a few doomed Morta Skuld-esque sections. This is an era of riff that demanded immediate muscular impact and death metal had only found subtle melody appealing, the title track’s later moments will see a few riffs taken directly from Loudblast‘s ‘Disquieting Beliefs’ so in some sense this band might not have been too proud to do some light borrowing (alongside Mercyless) from the true originals that surrounded them.
It isn’t the semi-melodic or cleverly knicked riffing that sustains the brutal rush of ‘Corporal Punishment’ decades later, but the combination of all of those elements with their still vibrant hardcore punk spirit. The powerful escalator grind of “Fury Settles” combined with the almost Arghoslent-meets-Loudblast rhythm guitar work of “Sense of Powerlessness” show how the band’s immersion in all forms of heavy music lead to a remarkably tasteful combination of elements. The mixture of pummeling and short deathgrind songs alongside 4-6 minute death metal riff fests should be a nice sweet spot for lovers of old school death metal and the pre-1993 crowd before so many bands dropped thrash metal structures from their death metal work. Consider ‘Corporal Punishment’ a marker for an end of an era that is (like Thanatos‘ early work) moderately cumulative of the brightest spots within certain underground reaches.
Beyond this point Crusher would achieve what so many “punks who like Bolt Thrower” bands are heading towards today with ‘Act II: Undermine!’ (1993) an EP that would make ‘Corporal Punishment’ look a bit like a demo in terms of sound thanks to Colin Richardson‘s production. If you’re looking for a companion to the style of a record like ‘Utopia Banished’ I’d suggest hunting that EP down. As I peruse their reissue compilation from a few years back and dig up Frayeurs‘ demo material I felt that there was a profound and creative spirit driving ‘Corporal Punishment’ and really admired how representative of an era it is, rough edges and all. Although the band split up in 1995 for reasons unknown to me, vocalist Crass (Cubensis, Fertile Mind) reformed the project with a new line-up in 2015 and with the reformation on the verge of a new release it is worthwhile to revisit their discography.
The guiltless always suffer. 4.0/5.0
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