Half-Life: Crashdïet

Crashdïet have had a hard time since spear-heading the Swedish sleaze rock revival in the early 2000s. With five studio albums, and nearly as many lead singers, under their belt since 2005, it hasn’t been easy for the band to stay atop of the scene they helped define – and they haven’t always succeeded. Now, with a brand new album and a brand new vocalist to their name, we look back at the ups and downs of their career.

Rest in Sleaze (2005)

Released the same year that Hardcore Superstar solidified their hair metal turn with their breakthrough, self-titled record, Rest in Sleaze helped shape the Swedish sleaze rock scene that would go on to give rise to acts like Crazy Lixx, H.E.A.T, Eclipse and Toxic Rose, just to name a few favourites. Crashdïet weren’t necessarily the first of the Swedish hair metal revivalists (Gemini Five‘s debut Babylon Rockets (2003) came out a few years earlier, for example), but they were definitely the best.

There simply isn’t a weak track on the record. The back-to-back hits of “Riot in Everyone” and “Queen Obscene (69 Shots)” are definitely the album’s highpoints. However, any of Rest in Sleaze‘s other eight tracks suffer only in comparison. It’s clear and crisp like all the best hair metal albums are, but there’s a rawer edge to the songs that set Crashdïet apart from their competitors. The bombastic intro of “Breakin the Chainz” gives way to a throbbing bassline topped by palm-mutes and sustained open chords; “Straight Outta Hell” is built around some distinctly Judas Priest-style riffing; and even ballad track “It’s a Miracle” is underscored by the kind of deep bass-line that Skid Row embraced on Subhuman Race (1995) (and also “Youth Gone Wild”). Rest in Sleaze is much more a metal album than it is a hard rock one.

The other striking thing about the record is just how non-sleazy it is. Despite it’s title, almost none of Rest in Sleaze‘s tracks are about women or sex, and there’s nothing overtly misogynistic either. The gloriously nonsensical chorus of “Queen Obscene”: “you’re a sex bomb love machine, sixty-nine shots of gasoline…”; is about as risque as it gets and – in what I’m calling a reverse “Little Red Corvette” situation – I’m pretty sure it’s actually about a car. “It’s a Miracle” celebrates, rather than berates its deadly object of affection, comparing her to “a plague in a wide and open show” and the thorns of a rose. It’s all a rather respectful affair. Elsewhere the songs share a thread of personal resilience and punk defiance that, again, set them apart from the crowd and align them more with the punk and metal underground than the excess of the ’80s Sunset Strip.

Rest in Sleaze stands alongside classic albums such as Def Leppard‘s Hysteria (1987) and Whitesnake‘s 1987 self-titled (not to mention Poison‘s Open Up and Say …Ahh! (1988)) as one of the best hair metal albums ever recorded – regardless of era. Unfortunately, the band’s initial momentum was cut short when Lepard tragically took his own life the following year.

 

The Unattractive Revolution (2007)

Crashdïet reformed a year after Lepard’s death with Finnish singer H. Olliver Twisted at the helm, and delivered their sophomore album The Unattractive Revolution. The sleaze is definitely cranked up for this one. The record opens with the raucous “In the Raw”, which borrows heavily, both sonicly and ideologically, from W.A.S.P.‘s “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)”; “Like a Sin” follows suit with a snarlier take on the seductive temptress than “It’s a Miracle”; while early highlight “Falling Rain” resorts to the tired stereotype of the “hooker with a heart of gold”. Lyrically it’s less interesting, and Twisted lacks the inspirational power of Lepard. Nevertheless, his Scandinavian snarl fits the album’s heavier direction well.

The Unattractive Revolution is much more classic heavy metal-inspired than Crashdïet’s other albums. Twisted’s performance is pretty one-note, but the rest of the band continue to be in top form, whether going full throttle on tracks like “I Don’t Care” or “In the Raw”, or easing off for the Backstreet Boys-meets-’80s–Alice Cooper vibes of “Overnight”. It’s a less consistent record than Rest in Sleaze for sure, with all the best tracks contained within its first-half. The production and mixing is also weak in parts and it definitely sticks out in style, compared with Crashdïet’s other releases. However, there’s enough energy and impressive riffing to edge The Unattractive revolution into the upper half of the band’s output.

Twisted left Crashdïet in 2008 to return to his first band Reckless Love, with whom he continues to commit heinous aural atrocities to this day.

 

Generation Wild (2010)

The band made their second resurrection with mohawked singer Simon Cruz who, for many, has probably become the definitive Crashdïet vocalist. Cruz’s deeper tones and wider range helped make Generation Wild not only the best Crashdïet album since their debut, but one which even rivals Rest in Sleaze in terms of quality. It doesn’t quite take the cake, but it’s probably where I’d point most people – especially fans of heavier music – toward as the first of their albums to listen to, especially if they’re not normally a fan of hair metal.

On Generation Wild, Crashdïet made the full transition from a hard rock band into a heavy metal band. Maybe it’s just the more powerful modern production, or maybe it’s just drummer Eric Gjerdrum finally getting to put his extensive collection of Morbid Angel singlets to good use, but everything on this album just hits so much harder than anything the band had produced before, or anything since. The band’s penchant for heavy metal riffing is on full display on tracks like “So Alive”, “Down With the Dust” and “Native Nature” – the later of which sounds like Slave to the Grind (1991) era Skid Row with an assist from Gene Frenkle. It’s penultimate number “Bound to Fall” (below), however, which is both the record heaviest and best offering; its main riff comes absolutely slamming in at the start, and even its mellower verses are kept sounding sinister thanks to Peter London‘s thick, throbbing bass tones, before finally culminating in a thundering, half-time beatdown. The album, again, sees a lyrical focus on personal resistance instead of sexual conquests. Some of the ballads, such as “Save Her” and “Chemical” could use a bit of extra polish, but closer “Beautiful Pain” is a banger that invokes Crimson Idol (1992) era W.A.S.P. and ends the album on a perfectly sullen note.

Generation Wild is another near-flawless record and a modern hair metal classic. Those not already inclined toward hair metal might struggle with Rest in Sleaze (for all its brilliance), but I implore you to check this album out if you’ve ever had even a passing interest in hard rock and heavy metal.

 

The Savage Playground (2013)

The Savage Playground  marks the first, and so far only, time Crashdïet have recorded back-to-back albums with the same vocalist. Unfortunatley, it failed to carry forward the triumphant vibes of its predecessor.

It all sounds pretty uninspired. “Change the World” opens the record with a retread of the main riff from “Riot in Everyone” and none of its thirteen tracks are particularly catchy or memorable. The upbeat “Cocaine Cowboys” and the harder-hitting “Anarchy” comes closest but, even then, they comes off like pale imitations of the material on Generation Wild (specifically “Native Nature” and “Bount to Fall”, respectively), while lead single “California” comes off as more Katy Perry than David Lee Roth.

The album isn’t helped by its stifling production. The savage Playground sounds like it was recorded through the wall of the room next door to the studio and, it goes without saying, completely lacks the power and punch of its predecessor. It also feels overly long. While Rest in Sleaze and Generation Wild‘s eleven tracks each feel done in a flash, The Savage Playground‘s thirteen seriously drag, and there’s nothing worth remarking upon.

Crashdïet disappeared  into relative obscurity following The Savage Playground‘s release – allowing then-more consistent acts like Crazy Lixx and H.E.A.T to get the upper hand and, when Cruz left suddenly, and supposedly without explanation, during the band’s 2015 tour of Japan, it seemed like the band might finally be done for.

 

Rust (2019)

Don’t call it a comeback, but Crashdïet have returned with their fifth album and a brand new lead singer in the form of one Gabriel Keyes. Keyes is a solid singer, but he lacks the personality of Cruz and Lepard (and even old Oli Twisted). Then again, maybe someone more stable a bit less eccentric is exactly what Crashdïet need right now.

Likewise, Rust seems like the most conventional Crashdïet release to date. The sleaze rock scene is steeped in nostalgia and tradition, but that the opening title-track blatantly lifts the “hold on to what we’ve got” lyric and melody from Bon Jovi mega-hit “Livin’ on a Prayer” is pretty shameless, but it also helps make it one of the more memorable and impressive songs on the record. “Parasite” is another strong offering that feels like it throws back a bit more to the Rest in Sleaze days than much of the band’s later day material, and “Reptile” has a bit of bite to it, even if its refrain of “I’m non-political, fueled by alcohol” contradicts much of the band’s previous counter-culture stance, not to mention the obvious political messages of a track like “Into the Wild” from the very same album.

There are still some creases that need to be ironed out. “Into the Wild” feels simultaneously flabby and insubstantial, and does a lot to curb the album’s momentum early on – even if hearing a hair metal band using their music to campaign against climate change is a refreshingly novel concept. “Idiots” is better removed from its Wayne’s World and Decline of Modern Civilisation-jocking video, but its final breakdown (yes, actually a literal breakdown) still feels unfinished. Penultimate number “Stop Weirding Me Out” could probably have been left on the cutting room floor, while closer “Filth Flowers” never quite seems to get a proper grasp of its titular metaphor. The album’s production is a huge step up from The Savage Playground but it still seems stilted compared with the punch of the band’s earlier records.

Rust is maybe not an entirely triumphant comeback, but it is a successful one. Even if it isn’t their most remarkable offering, its great to have Crashdïet back making music again. Hopefully things are a bit more stable for them from here out.

Rust is avaliable now through Frontiers Music. But you should definitely pick up copies of Generation Wild and Rest in Sleaze first.

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My pen halts, though I do not. Reader, you will walk no more with me. It is time we both take up our lives.