Crucifist is Dan Lilker’s black thrash band, but in spirit — a kind of urban stoner goofiness — it reminds me of retro beard metal like Saviours or Bison B.C. more than Black Metal. That Crucifist might sound beardy shouldn’t surprise anyone. Lilker always had a lot of beard metal in his approach — even before that sort of thing had a name — and this band is definitely his band, given that basically all the songs feel like chains of (admittedly great) bass riffs glued together with drums, melodic guitar leads, and crust punk vox. I call Crucifist a retro band with some trepidation, though, because while I enjoy a lot of retro bands, most of their music feels pointless to me. More than that, it feels emotionally sanitary. You can be a party band and still be serious. People like to shit on hair bands, for example, but at least hair bands knew that rock music wants blood in its veins.
Crucifist sounds mean. A lot of that has to do with the songs’ rhythm, which lurches like a sick person. But a lot also has to do with the lyrics. In metal, where baroque musicianship is almost a prerequisite, lyrics are often vital for creating emotional texture. Most retro bands forget the importance of lyrics and turn out fantasy for the sake of fantasy. Crucifist have a better grasp of the form, and use fantasy and horror as jumping off points for more serious things.
If there’s a thematic link between the songs on Demon Haunted World (Profound Lore, 2009), it’s the nature of sin and retribution. These songs suggest that you can’t undo what you’ve done because you’ve been changed by it. It’s possible that you’ve even lost your claim to personhood. Your brain has gone tumorous and crawled out the back of your skull. Tentacles have broken in and out of every orifice. By the time this is over, you’ll be lucky to be dead.
While most of the album is camp, it takes a turn at the end with the solemn “Anus Mundi,” which deals with the Holocaust, and makes you go back over everything else and wonder if you should have been paying better attention all along. It’s a risky, potentially tasteless move that a band like Saviours would never make, but that’s why Saviours will never pen chilling, ambiguous lines like “Herded beasts into the pen / All their eyes stare back at me / If they are human what am I? / I glance toward a darkened sky” and Crucifist will. They play around, but they also play for keeps, and that’s worthwhile.