Album Review: Crucified Barbara - The Midnight Chase
The world of hard rock and heavy metal is a difficult one for women to exist in. The tougher-than-thou image that overtook the music is dependent on testosterone to survive, and even when women dare enter the fray, they are looked at with a curious eye. The spots reserved for women, for the most part, are either as keyboard players in the background, or as operatic sirens with the looks of a model. Not that there is anything to be ashamed of by filling those roles, but every now and again the rock world needs a dose of reality to reset the stereotypes that drag us all down into the mire of stupidity.
Crucified Barbara is an all female rock band that takes no prisoners, and doesn't apologize for rocking harder than women are expected to. Flashing more than a passing obsession with Motörhead, the band is everything you would expect of a dirty rock outfit. Vocalist Mia Karlsson has the leathery pipes to spit lyrics with attitude, while guitarist Klara Force has enough sleaze-drenched riffs and guitar hero solos to outshine many of her male counterparts. The solo on “Shut Your Mouth” is enough to, fittingly, shut the mouths of anyone who dare doubt their credantials.
“The Crucifier” builds on a low, droning riff that sounds like a modernized take on the old Sunset Strip sound, but done with more conviction than the recent efforts by any of the originators. It's that spirit that most embodies “The Midnight Chase”; the reckless energy of Los Angeles in the 80's, but without the hairspray and camp that relegated the scene to a joke. Crucified Barbara ups the ante on the music, taking the best aspects and throwing out everything else, sounding more dangerous than any band from that era, with the exception of the real-life ticking time bomb that was Guns 'N Roses.
It's fair to say that “The Midnight Chase” doesn't bring anything new to the table, but that would be missing the point. There will always be a place for straight-ahead hard rock and heavy metal, and Crucified Barbara is staking their claim to a spot at the front of the line. Few bands going right now can take a quintessential Motörhead riff like the one in “Into The Fire”, and expand on it by including enough melody in the vocals to twist it into something more than a pastiche. They pay homage to the past without succumbing to reliving it.
Where the band goes wrong is when they try to soften up their attack. “Rules and Bones” isn't a bad song, but it's obvious attempt at creating an audience sing-along doesn't mesh with the rest of the album, sounding both out of place and out of character. Placed on a more commercial album, it would be an obvious hit, but within the context of “The Midnight Chase”, it comes across as cliché and a rare misstep. “If I Hide” tries the same trick, but pulls it off. The verses maintain enough energy that the half-time chorus sounds larger, and can soar above the usual melodies. It's a slower effort, and the melancholic guitar solo makes the song a quasi-ballad, but it works too well to criticize. It's not the perfect distillation of who the band is, but it might just be the most accomplished song on the album.
No, “The Midnight Chase” isn't going to be remembered decades from now as a classic album. Few are, but while legacy may evade Crucified Barbara, attention shouldn't. While bands like Hardcore Superstar have amassed acclaim for their take on the classic sleaze sound, Crucified Barbara does it as well as anyone. “The Midnight Chase” is a snarling hard rock record that proves conventions be damned, these women can rock.