By Jon Horberry
This is CRASHDÏET's first album with the same singer as the last; and fans of this Swedish Sleaze band will be all too aware of the tumultuous journey and events that have led to that one little fact being a momentous achievement in itself. Since their inception with 2005's "Rest in Sleaze" (hailed by many as a modern Appetite For Destruction) the CRASHDÏET boys always seem to have had something to prove with each following record and each new singer. The line-up was cemented on 2010's explosive "Generation Wild", with the charismatic, Mohawk rocking Simon Cruz finally filling original singer Dave Leppard's boots in a fashion that the previous applicant Ollie Twisted (Reckless Love) just couldn't.
The result of having already proven they can be just as loud as ever, is a more laid back CRASHDÏET taking a different approach with album number 4. Like country-mates Crazy Lixx on their recent "Riot Avenue", the band have dialled back the late 80's/early 90's Hair Metal production values in favour of a rawer sound, achieved in this instance by recording the album live in the studio. It sounds fantastic and, having seen them 3 times in the past year or so, is an accurate enough representation of the kind of sound these guys can blast from a real world stage. It is actually a pleasure to hear some bum notes in a record produced in this day and age.
Lyrically, the band haven't really moved a muscle. Revolution, alcohol, drugs and the idea that people are scum are the ideas venomously spat forth by Mr. Cruz in a lot of the syllables on the record. Musically however, The Savage Playground sees CRASHDÏET regularly playing with new ideas in both familiar and new territory.
I was pleasantly surprised when opener "Change The World" - at first a fairly standard CRASHDÏET song written in the same vein as "Riot In Everyone" (Rest In Sleaze) and "Down With The Dust" (Generation Wild) - broke from its pounding, fast paced rallying structure and launched into a Maiden-esque galloping instrumental section that culminates in a Billy Idol styled spoken word bridge. "Anarchy" then reprises this galloping into a mid-paced, fist pumping offering, infused with a harmonised gang chorus akin to the preceding Southern Rock, Rob Zombie like "Cocaine Cowboys". This opening trio is classic sounding CRASHDÏET with a twist.
The real surprise, and an album highlight, is 4th track "California". Led in by a lightly distorted acoustic guitar, the song breaks into a familiar rock groove complimented by contrasting subtle lead vocal harmonies. It's a solemn affair, with the lyrics reflecting being out with the boys whilst lamenting a failed relationship. Later in the album "Got a Reason”, "Drinkin' Without You" and "Excited" see the band cutting some more chops from this same cloth and it's nice to hear such diversity from the band.
But this is CRASHDÏET, and a quick nod to Skid Row brings on the downright venomous sleazings of the Guns n Roses styled "Lickin' Dog". Angry, raw and full of resentment (possibly aimed at a former CRASHDÏET singer? I wonder...); this is pure Sleaze Metal at its best. "Circus" is as close as the album gets to a title track and has some very nice, pounding rhythm guitar work and a great chorus. "Sin City" alludes to the time band spent in the USA on their last tour and has to be one of my favourites in CRASHDÏET's catalogue. With lyrics that attack the American Dream, one of the catchiest guitar solos I've heard in a while and some all-round quality musicianship (I particularly enjoyed Eric Young's drums and the guitar rhythm in this one) it's another song that shows why the band are a leader in the current Sleaze movement.
"Snakes in Paradise" and finisher "Garden of Babylon" are what everyone wanted Chinese Democracy to sound like - full on, heavy, groove infused Hard Rock songs that wouldn't be out of place on a classic Roses or Skid Row album. The band expand their repertoire a little on these too, adding some fantastically sinister, somewhat epic synth lines to the mix.
I found the song writing and musicianship on this album to be among the best in their career, with each member really stepping up their game. Martin Sweet's riffs and leads are well crafted and memorable. Cruz's vocals are more venomous, yet more melodic, than before. Peter London does a fantastic job of holding down the feel of the tracks on bass, being a real driving force for the overall sound, even when only one guitar is playing. And Young's drums seamlessly rise and fall in dexterity and intensity as each section of each song requires.
The Savage Playground is CRASHDÏET showing us, for the first time, the album they WANTED to make instead of trying to prove a point. The irony, of course, is that the guys have finally proved the point that they aren't struggling to keep up and that they are now here to stay. It's only January, but I have a feeling this is going to be a contender for my album of the year. It's raw. It's energetic. It's angry. It's melodic. And it's brilliantly paced throughout.
It's excellent to finally hear a CRASHDÏET that knows it has a future. Play this one LOUD.
Devil Horn Rating (Out of Five): \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/