Kraftwerk Radio-Activity, Stevie Wonder Talking Book … The Crumbsuckers Beast On My Back – the only logically sound progression from there, surely. The band’s 1988 sophomore effort crawled out of the fetid cracks in the concrete where the bacteria of hardcore punk was thriving in the congealed blood of dead thrash metallers, spawning the briefly virulent crossover scene*. It was released on Rough Justice, home to 1537 faves Adrenalin O.D.
Beast On My Back was a conscious effort by Crumbsuckers to go more metal, you can hear they slowed it down in places, lengthened the tunes and added some moshy bits**; hell their lead guitarist Chuck Lenihan was downright fluffy. The end result is good but not classic to these old ears.
Take ‘Breakout’ the LP opener, it kicks off in intriguing style with a really darkly melodic piano intro and not just the token taster bit you get with some thrash tracks, this sounds like a lovely fully realised few minutes, before things get rather more frantic. The first words on the LP after this?
Murder, death, pain – tears of frustration
‘Breakout’ would sit very comfortably on either of Anthrax’s first couple of releases, the vocals and choppiness of the music speaks more of hardcore than thrash, but then the guitars come charging over the horizon soloing all over the place. Minor variations of pace, chords and subject matter aside that’s the LP. I particularly enjoy the punchy nastiness of ‘Jimmie’s Dream’, pretty much the heaviest track here by a whisker from second-fave ‘B.O.M.B (Beast On My Back)’.
Lyrically we’re in angry teenager-ville. Take that addictions! Take that establishment! Take that futility of warfare! and obviously, Take that God! Yeah, the church gets a kicking on ‘I Am He’, which is basically exactly what I would have written in a bad mood in 1988. well, if I was fronting my own hardcore crossover band, rather than umm, worrying about spots and playing AD&D.
This is a good LP to bang your head to and one that has clearly been put together by a very tight band who paid their dues the hard way in a hard scene, but ultimately Beast On My Back isn’t a lost classic, the song writing isn’t quite there and unfortunately the production from Randy Burns^ is too light and trebley. If they’d broken on through to a deeper tone with the bass and drums it would have given them so much more depth. Although the band get kudos for having Genya Ravan mix it.
But hey, you have to love the band’s strange little mascot Crumbsucker thing – looks like a strangely withered, feral Richard Nixon to me.
*basically really mean looking muthas who shouted at you a lot, had even more tattoos than usual and only sometimes had long hair. If you were ever going to pick a fight with a band, these were really not the fucking ones to go for. In fact I’d stick the Cro-Mags up against any band in history in a fist fight, even like real gnarly barbarian thrash bands from Cimmeria.
**’scuse me if I get too technical.
^not a great thing to get on your knees, trust me.