Musical Martyrs - The Vilified Albums - Crumbsuckers - Beast On My Back

We’re going back to the vinyl vault for this one, and I have an old chum to thank for reminding me that the world needed to be re-introduced to this gem. Sometime back, I reviewed Life of Dreams from Crumbsuckers and went into some detail about the crossover hardcore classic sounds held within the grooves of that bad boy. Well, this time around, I’m shining the spotlight on the band’s 1988 follow up and final release entitled Beast On My Back, commonly referred to by fans as B.O.M.B.

In returning to the sounds of my youth, the memories of my initial reaction to this disc flooded my psyche. The first time I put the needle to groove, I immediately took about three steps back from the turntable, gazed questioningly at the sound emitted by the speakers, and then gingerly approached the sound system to inspect what might be askew. It turned out that everything was in proper working order and that someone had fucked with the sound of my band rather than the operating system upon which it rotated. This was a slowed down form of thrash metal, complete with extended musical compositions and guitar solos. Hell, there was even piano work opening the first track and an instrumental piece closing side one! What the hell? I remember asking. Quite disappointed, I sat on my bed, arm strategically placed on my knee to support the weight of my head, and I listened to the band that sorta’ sounded like Crumbsuckers, but wasn’t the quasi-hardcore sounding stuff from Life of Dreams. I listened. And, then I listened some more. And, then I got up from my Thinker pose and flipped the album over once again. Before too long, the sun went down and I had listened to Beast On My Back

about ten times, and you wanna’ know what I discovered? I found that not only was this album growing on me (duh!), but I was thinking in the deepest, darkest recesses of my brain that this album could quite possibly be better than the first! How in God’s name did that happen?

“Breakout” doesn’t necessarily “breakout” of the gates, but it does break the band out of any confines that the music world had previously placed around them. The piano intro and slow, melodic build up show a band that has turned its back on the gospel of by-the-books-or-else-you-suck punk ethos and have embraced the idea that it’s cool to know how to play one’s instruments with some sense of melody. But, don’t go thinking that Crumbsuckers have gone all Barry Manilow or anything (not that there’s anything wrong with that), they still know how to bring the hardcore breakdowns into play and still pummel the senses with the best of them. As the progressive musical intro fades out, the Crumbsuckers of old rear their beautifully ugly heads and that hardcore flavor jumps to the top of the mix. Super fast, super aggressive, the lad’s fire off a sonic beat down that would fit fine on Life of Dreams. Chris Notaro’s incomprehensive guttural vocal tirade is top notch and unlike any sound experienced before or since, and it adds further nastiness to the whole composition. Speaking of composition, “Breakout” is a study of a group of guys taking two forms of music, and not just the fleshy parts, but the genetic makeup of heavy metal musicality and hardcore aggressiveness, mashing the two together and creating an incredibly intense, new subspecies of sound. The heavy metal portions are epic heavy metal, while the hardcore portions carry so much aggression that you’ll unwittingly clench your jaw to face the oncoming barrage of violence. And, just when you think that the storm of chaos has subsided, it only takes about two seconds from the next song to destroy any sense of comfort. “Jimmie’s Dream,” with its guitar-centric opening riff and thundering, up tempo beat, is highlighted by impressively tight starts and stops, and Notaro’s unique and impassioned vocal performance.

Things don’t change too much when we flip over the platter as we’re welcomed to side two by “I Am He.” Again, the vocals over this high octane speed freak are delectable. Notaro’s grunts and screams excite and revile at the same time, and then of course, there’s the breakdown towards the end of the tune as the guitars go from heavily distorted riffs to clean arpeggios. Then, they go back to a frickin’ sweet melodic riff, which sounds out of sorts with those diaphragm heaving vocals, but God damn! It’s frinkin’ cool! Great time changes and a billion moods all wrapped up in a four minute plus ass kicking. Each song has something to offer in the way of musical splendor, in particular, the uber-quick starts and stops, which may sound disjointed to some, make for an entertaining, roller coaster-type rip roarin’ ride. Check out “The Connection” as the band gives the song breath, yet retains a ton of power by abruptly cutting notes out of the riffs. Or, the melodic splendor mixed with the double bass drum frenzy on “Rejuvenate.” I love it! Melodic metal with hardcore intensity, full on tension that breaks with huge musical movements, subtle instrumentation by each band member . . . C’mon, “Rejuvenate” is a spectacular piece of music! And then there’s “Remembering Tomorrow” with its NWOBHM clean toned intro and epic build up before launching into a thrash-y, palm muted riff. The electro distorted vocals are a creepy touch, but show that Crumbsuckers aren’t afraid to experiment with sounds.

One might go as far as categorizing Beast On My Back, if people still do that sort of thing, as a progressive hardcore album. This disc was so far ahead of its time. It alienated the bands hardcore fan base and, at the time, was too damn extreme for metal fans. Hell! It took me numerous listens to finally hear the brilliance of it. B.O.M.B. is a smart album filled with unorthodox compositions and lyrical fancy. Combining the hardcore and metal genres may not seem like such a big deal these days, but that’s because bands like Crumbsuckers stuck their necks out and dabbled with the idea of merging the two sounds. On the metal end of the spectrum, it’s filled with fantastic lyrical subject matter and highly technical playing. On the hardcore spectrum, it’s bursting with an intense vocal presentation and flat out aggressive attitude. Because of the amount of space between notes and the added melodies, the aggressive breakdowns sound, nay . . . feel much heavier than normal. Finally, the production is great, particularly in the case of the drums. Man, the sound coming from the drums is so sharp, so defined and heavy. You’ll unconsciously flinch with every crack of the snare. And, the production doesn’t end with the drums, but the bass notes are punchy and distinct, the guitars are crisp and clear, and the vocals have a life of their own. Ruel . . . thanks for the trip in time! - Pope JTE


Metal Mark said…
Whoa, come back to earth because I think you have gone way off on this one. I bought it on cassette the week it came out and wasn't into it. Many years passed and I picked it up on CD earlier this year thinking maybe I would take to it better now. Here's what works on this disc-the vocals. Here's what doesn't work-pretty much everything but the vocals. It's not about being or not being like Life of dreams, but it's about it being good or likable. It's not awful, but it falls close to being average. Yes, they attempt to put in some different abgles thanks to the one new guitarist. It's a bit showy and it's different, but largely these parts are just kind of empty. They don't add much fire and I don't think they fit in too well either. There are some moments on this album, but overall they sound subdued and tired. Don't get me started on teh cover either.
Woody said…
Sir, you are one of the few to admit liking this tape. The drummer from Kinghorse is the only other person who I know who liked B.O.M.B.
Nope. I stand by my comments. B.O.M.B. is a good album that shows a band stepping out of the tired mindless knuckle dragging hardcore muck and adding flourishes of heavy metal virtuosity and class. Now, I'm not saying that this is the greatest album of all time (fuck, I've never said that about any album) but it certainly doesn't deserve to be ignored. As for it being good or likable, I feel that it certainly is, or else I wouldn't have written the review. Don't hold an album like this by today's standards. I'm not asking anyone to hold it up to somebody like, shit . . . I don't know, Hatebreed, and expect it to walk hand in hand with it. But as it came out in 1988, how different was it from the rest of the music being released in that time period? How unique was the mindset of the band from that of their peers in 1988? How much intestinal fortitude did it take to kick down a wall of a pretty close minded genre, knowing full well that they were either gonna' get flamed or misunderstood (or both) and continue down that path of creativity regardless of the repurcussions? I love it . . . these guys gave a big fat middle finger to everyone's expectations and pre-conceived notions of what Crumbsuckers were supposed to be. I flat out miss 'em!

raysrealm said…
Pope, I know what you're saying on this one. The time period in which it came out, '88 or so, was a very trendy, band-wagon-hopping period for a lot of bands. For these guys to step into left field the way they did here was not only admirable, but quite a good listen. Well done.
Buns O'Plenty said…
hey, this is Chris, love your blog as always! I was the webmaster of Discover Classic Rock and unfortunately i had to get rid of my webspace for a bit, so my site is not up right now. You were linking to me so i thought i'd let you know so you can remove Discover Classic Rock. I do update my Buns O'Plenty blog which is 60s, 70s funk, jazz, and soul if you are interested. I hope to make my DCR site return in the near future.

keep up the great blog

Sorry to hear about Discover Classic Rock. Get that baby back up quick!

But we got Buns O'Plenty up and running in our blogroll. We'll get Discover Classic rock back there as soon as you're ready.
Anonymous said…
Hey I am with you on this one. I LOVE "Beast on My Back".

Coming from someone who actually listened to hundreds and hundreds of releases at this time - they DID stick out and this even made it to the top of my 1988 Writers Playlist.

So, I stand with you (The Ripple Effect) this album rocks -THEN and NOW!

*Stay tuned for an upcoming special CRUMBSUCKERS interview coming in DEMOLISH METAL MAG.

Curt King
Hey Demolish,

Thanks for the comment and the compliments! We're all here spreading the love on the music out there.

Great site by the way!
Unknown said…
This is one of my favorite albums!
I love hardcore AND I love metal (and lots of other sounds as well).

'B.O.M'B' is a trash metal classic.

This was my introduction to the Crumbsuckers and I loved it, not knowing anything about their hardcore past.

I think this album totally rocks.
I even talked about at and uploaded it at my blog.
Dave Campo said…
Had both albums growing up, listened to a lot of NYHC and thrash metal. At first was rattled a little by the difference in BOMB when it came out but it grew on me and I did eventually like it a lot. The problem I have is that Life of Dreams may be the greatest crossover hardcore / thrash album ever and is definitely better than BOMB. Love everything this band has ever done though.
Epicus Doomus said…
"Ugh, this is guitar-wank metal" said the punks. "Blech, that hardcore singer ruins the whole thing" said the metalheads. In 1988 BOMB was way too daring and weird to be properly assimilated by anyone aside from a select few. It was and still is an astonishing record though, flawed as it may be. "Crossover" was still very divisive back in 1988, while some embraced it a "not enough of this too much of that" attitude was still common in both scenes, so much so that music like this was often rejected out of hand by both.