Picture if you will, a Saturday night in a remote part of the San Francisco Bay Area suburbs in the mid 1980s, an empty landscape, nothing but a fledgling layout of roads upon which today reside the sprawls of middle class California. At one intersection are four parked cars, maybe a truck, an El Camino, a Honda CRX, and a worn Charger. Teen kids mill about, trying to escape the disillusionment of the day, most wearing metal concert shirts like badges of honor, smokes dangling from mouths, beers a treasured commodity. In the background is the soundtrack of their lives, the only thing that truly mattered, the thunder and crashing of the likes of Iron Maiden, Saxon, Demon, and Raven,along with American upstarts Slayer, Megadeth, and Metallica blast out of the El Camino’s stereo(the guy with the El Camino always had the best system, right?). This was my adolescence, the proving grounds upon which the structure and form of my life was built upon. This was the place that Crawler’s debut album Knight of the Word took me to. They could have easily stood in line with all the New Wave of British metal and American thrash metal bands of the day. Hard to put a price on that type of nostalgia, a sound that is new, yet so ancient.
Based on what I said above, it is of no surprise that Crawler initially started out as a heavy metal cover band in the early 2000’s in Italy. Once cutting their teeth on a demo and an EP, Burst, they started work on a full album. They then got contacted by American producer Beau Hill, who collaborated with the band on the title track of the album, thereby setting the stage to be contacted by SG Records with an agreement to release the debut work. All while this was happening, they were rocking out clubs and heavy metal festivals around Italy and Belgium, fine tuning the new songs.
The main positive I can give this album is that these guys can write one hell of a catchy tune. Every song gets stuck in my head, each lick is memorable, a hallmark of good metal to me. Instrumentation is more than adequate for the job, though no one really stands out or takes over on the record. The beat is solid and tight though, a perfect pace for a pleasant night of head banging. They have the traditional lineup of lead and rhythm guitar, bass, and drums, and it shows everywhere on the album. The heavy guitars do their job, nothing overly flashy or extreme, but solid. The bass and drums carry the weight without taking over, almost to a fault; I felt they could have gone out on their own a bit more. The vocals of Claudio Cesari are just simply wonderful. When I first listened to this album, and first heard his classic metal voice, I knew if nothing else, I was going to have a fun listen, and I did.
Thematically, for the most part, there is nothing really deep or moving here. They have a song about an asteroid, one about Freddy Kreuger (really guys?), and another about an undead creating virus. The opening song, Crawler, is a testimonial to how much of a kick ass metal band they are,” We’re arrived and saved our world, not with weapons, without a war ,hear our voice, make your choice, metal is music and ain’t a noise…….Crawler, for the glory of metal, Crawler, Crawler!!!” Personally, I don’t care what anyone says, I love this shit. I miss the days of self promoting rock, and I have no problem with metal bands singing about how cool it is to be in a metal band, celebrating their metaldom at the top of their lungs. In all honesty, how many of us wish we were? The majority of the album falls along these veins, comical scare attempts and high strung party metal, great fodder for a live setting.(I watched a number of their live videos, they seem to slay on the stage).
I use terms like “most part” and “majority” about the thematic elements of the album because in the midst of the undead and asteroids, there lies a true gem, Angels in Paradise. There is a scene in the 1994 movie Airheads, where the lead character refers to being in a band just to create that one song that could last forever. This might be Crawler’s. Told from the first person viewpoint of a recently deceased loved one, it speaks of the peace and serenity found in the afterlife, in a soothing yet apologetic way. It isn’t overly dramatic, or pretentious in any manner, just honest and caring, a song that came from a place of love. During the time I was preparing for this review my cousin passed away suddenly, and this song gave me a great measure of comfort. For that alone, I am in this band’s gratitude, and this song, for me at least, will live forever.
I have many days when I don’t want to listen to 20+ minute epics or full concept albums. Some days I don’t care for 60 notes every second, or complex time changes that I couldn’t tap my feet to no matter how much coffee I drank. There are many times when I just want to put the tunes on, crank it up, and rock the fuck out. Crawler, you have made it to that playlist.