Crushing Blow - Far away 3/5

Reviewed: 5-13-05


1. Prelude
2. Far away
3. Hate me
4. Humanity
5. Believe
6. Idols
7. Lost innocence
8. Get out of my way
9. Dark moon
10. Shadow (acoustic version)

Dedicated readers of this site will know that we're committed to carving out a subspecialty in the area of female fronted bands. I'll leave the female fronted gothic and symphonic bands in Clint's capable hands. Where I come in is with a perhaps more obscure, albeit no less interesting, sub-sub-genre of female fronted acts that have little in common with the Nightwishes, Lacuna Coils and Within Temptations of the world. The bands to which I'm referring take their cues from classic Warlock, Chastain, Blacklace, Hellion, and others of that ilk, coupling gritty female lead vocals with powerful traditional heavy metal music. It does my heart good to see so many bands now emerging in this style, despite the fact that it is on the periphery of commercial respectability, unappreciated and unnoticed by all but a narrow sliver of the metalhead population. Among the vanguard acts in this burgeoning niche include Ligeia, Ignitor, Backslash, Twyster, Phantom Blue (not technically a new band, I know), Black Widow, and Valkija. Now we can add France's Crushing Blow to these auspicious ranks.

Crushing Blow share many attributes with their colleagues in the NWOTHMBWBCS ("New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal Bands with Ballsy Chick Singers"). All the hallmarks of the style are present, including sturdy 80s inspired guitar riffage, powerful female vocals that channel no one more than Leather Leone (albeit not as awesome), and anthemic, fistbanging songs. Vocalist Audrey Bucci has a clear, strong gritty voice and a good range, from soaring highs to a more malevolent mid-range, although she seems a bit out of control at time and betrays a thick accent in the quieter parts. The songwriting on this debut CD is straightforward, catchy, and fun, and thankfully has more variety and imagination than many of today's female fronted traditional acts, perhaps because of the band members' long-running struggle to decide on a particular style. Although the sound is unquestionably traditional metal first and foremost, elements of symphonic, power, and even a smidgeon of prog creep in from time to time.

Although 'Far away' is an enjoyable CD, Crushing Blow are not quite ready to compete with the big dogs yet. The melding of the prog bits and symphonic parts (and especially the rare keyboard interludes) to the traditional metal undercarriage sometimes seems forced and not fully thought through. In time, I expect the band to hone and define their style into a more coherent vision. Also, the presentation suffers in several respects. The band logo is nearly illegible, and the CD cover art is worse than that gracing many self-financed releases. Lyrically, I applaud Crushing Blow for tackling the daunting task of writing in a language other than their native French, but these lyrics are pretty bad, especially "Hate me", which features such regrettable couplets as "Here baby, I'll tell you why / I prefer dogs to guys". We don't want to know.

In the final analysis, we have a promising debut CD from a talented band. With some minor tinkering to their sound, elimination of the keyboards, and a bit of help in the packaging and lyrics department, Crushing Blow unquestionably can become a force to be reckoned with.




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