Some voices are simply meant to be heard. They are meant to be noticed, distinct amongst a crowded pack, and carried along the winds to the four corners of the Earth. They are meant to teach, to divulge, to break down the barriers of what the human voice is potentially capable of both on a spiritual and physical nature. One of those voices has always been, and will always be, that of Karyn Crisis, and now, after too long of a hiatus Crisis has returned with the newly minted Gospel Of The Witches.
Anyone worth their metal street cred knows the name Karyn Crisis and her namesake outfit, Crisis. Born out of a proverbial tryst between the New York City hardcore and metal scenes, Crisis haunted the dirtiest clubs and created some of the nastiest pits up and down the East Coast in the early 90’s before signing to, and releasing multiple albums through, Metal Blade Records. A relocation to L.A. was followed by a final album for The End Records in 2004 and then, sadly, dissolution. To say that Crisis were an influential act would be an understatement of epic proportions. Female artists existed in the metal underground before Karyn Crisis but it’s hard to argue that any of them rocked the microphone the way Crisis did in the band’s prime. Taking nothing away from her band mates, you would go to a Crisis show because they were an amazing band, but you’d go back again because Karyn Crisis was an absolutely mesmerizing force on stage and on record.
While the backdrop to her vocal magic has shifted, the focus on the new Karyn Crisis project, Gospel Of The Witches, is once again that voice – tortured in her screams and growls, yet angelic at all the right moments. While the thrash-fused hardcore of Crisis proved to be a more than adequate canvas on which to sing and scream her visions, Gospel Of The Witches is the cathedral in which she is constructing her masterwork. The debut album, Salem’s Wounds, is the culmination of ghostly visits, spiritual (re)awakenings, historical examinations, and musical cohering. It is truly the apotheosis of one woman’s manifestations grown tangible and shared amongst those brave enough to take the spirit walk with her.
It’s hard to finger exactly where in the metal pantheon this album eventually falls. Crisis and her troupe take liberties to include musical influences far and wide. From the mellow, electronica tinges on a track like “Goddess of Light” to the post-rock ambiance of “Pillars” to the pseudo-hip hop aesthetics of “The Secret” it’s brutally clear that Crisis and her musical partners were not afraid to let the music wander into whatever territory it damned well pleased like an army searching for provisions post-battle. But fear not, the darkness and heaviness you would expect and hope for from this project is more than prevalent. “Howl At The Moon” does just that with one of the best doom riffs you’ll hear all year kicking it off and the track “Mother” is simply brilliant in its ability to cause nightmarish visions of burning flesh and other historical atrocities. All the while Crisis is there, existing almost above the music heaving down upon us like a monsoon of raw emotion. To say that this album has the feeling of being a personal one is a somewhat lacking description when listening to Crisis moan and wail over a smorgasbord of nasty, Davide Tiso riffs, gruesome, deathly backing vocals, and pounding rhythms. The artistic catharsis is palpable. What is also tangible is the feeling that you are experiencing one of the more unique albums that will come across your stereo for quite some time.
Salem’s Wounds is due out via Century Media Records on March 24 in the U.S. In the meantime you can catch the video for the track “The Alchemist.”