Reverend Bizarre’s debut, as noted before on an earlier entry for Ride into Glory, represented a “refined” form of what the traditional school of doom metal was. The influences from past bands – Sabbath to Witchfinder General, to Saint Vitus and Cathedral, and a whole lot more I’m leaving out for brevity’s sake – reinterpreted into something that could not be mistaken for anything but pure doom metal, with all that it entails. The linear song structuring & arrangements that largely eschewed verse/chorus; the absurdly crushing post-Sabbath doom riffage that proudly built on past artist’s legacies while showcasing their own voices as musicians, etc. The abstracted “black metal mindset” it was approach as – shamelessly embracing and glorifying the basic essence of the genre to the point where it loops back and forces you to engage it on its own terms, and if not, the band couldn’t really give less of a shit. It is what metal is fundamentally built on, after all; Reverend Bizarre just happened to be more honest about it than most.
In that light, Crush the Insects is a surprising follow up to the debut because it takes several VERY different tacks on the band’s patented take on the genre: namely, it bothered being accessible in a way their other full lengths really aren’t. Whereas that first album was innately gripping, by virtue of its riffs and the way the band painstaking arranged/structured the way each passage glacially flowing into one another in lieu of conventional hooks, Crush… was very clearly an attempt at crafting a more traditionally memorable record than its predecessor ever attempted. It’s the closest thing to a “fun” album the band ever crafted; the band themselves even cheekily pointed it out with a sticker on the original CD issue of the album as “The Biggest Sell-out in True Doom”. Go figure.
The way the album is structured pretty clearly outlines its intent as well – whereas, on the first album, you could count the number of mid-tempo passages on it with one hand, Crush’s first three songs are basically straight up mid-paced bashers. Opener “Doom Over the World” begins with the band’s customary ominous post-Sabbath doom chords and tom-drum pounding, evoking pure bombast and dread – before revealing through sleight of hand, the actual main riff of the song: a super simple, but oh so satisfying mid-paced riff that sets the tone for the rest of the song. Reverend Bizarre didn’t wimp out or forget how to write heavy riffs; it’s just that there’s a tacit admission that’s also alright to rock the fuck out every once in a while, and hell, I’m game for it. “Doom…” is immediately more anthemic than anything off the first album, with not just its main riff, but the way Albert’s voice plays off its riffs and, of course, its Big Ol’ Chorus that works by dint of just how well everything meshes together. Its riffs and basslines bulldoze everything in the way; Albert’s voice is powerful and full of life, absolutely bursting with power with the rest, and the drumming is precise while also juuuuuuuust loose & groovy enough to give the riffs the necessary oomph to push off them.
There are three things that Crush the Insects reveals about Reverend Bizarre: they’re a band with more of a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor then you’d expect – I mean, “Fucking Wizard” is exactly what you think it’s about, and they’re very clearly a band who were at least willing to have a little fun. (without being smug or ironic about it, mind you – they’re a band who very clearly loved their genre and the history around it, so it’s born out of utmost respect). The other thing is that it reveals the band as being seriously excellent songwriters, even when they take it upon themselves to write more “conventional” and “fun” doom metal. Their riff writing is as insistently memorable as it’d ever really get, and the band’s handling of their individual parts, within this format, is nearly as adept as it is with their more glacial, linear songs, with a sense of timing & movement between each individual riff and passage that is propulsive and engaging even if it isn’t tremendously fast, as you’d expect. It’s difficult not listening to the opening track, or the strident, confident way that the guitar plays off the groove of the rhythm section in “Cromwell” and not be immediately absorbed by them. RevBiz is a band that always sounded self-assured of their own direction in their music, but it’s here in the first few tracks of Crush the Insects that it never becomes more obvious.
Of course, that’s the last thing – once the first three songs draw you into the band’s style, they then immediately reveal the type of doom they’re actually best at: the return to the crushing, glacially-paced doom metal that dominated the debut. Crush isn’t quite as monomaniacally devoted to crawling tempos as much as its predecessor, however – “Council of Ten” crawls and broods as much as any of their songs for its first 5 and a half minute before the band does the closest thing there is for them to start slamming on the gas and go into uptempo mode; the pure bashing force of the band’s riffage & bass playing drives the song toward its climax. “By This Axe I Rule” constantly teases and threatens to speed up, dragging it out for about six minutes, insistently drawing you along – before the break comes and Witchfinder introduces the band speeding up with a killer bass riff, and there’s that drum groove during the faster section the guitars & bass play that’s some of the most memorable shit they ever did. Is climax mirrors the lyrics of the song; full-throated, primal roaring as the band collapses back into grotesque glacial dirge territory. Reverend Bizarre’s gift for song structuring allows them to work in faster paced sections every so often into these songs without them sounding forced or out of place – rather, they feel like absolutely necessary, pivotal parts of those tracks instead of them going “let’s toss in a faster doom riff here because we’re really into Pentagram but can’t pull it off half as well” like a much lesser band would do. The way they tend to handle it, beyond the bombast of their aesthetic, gives their music a very natural/intuitive quality that most other doom doesn’t touch half as well.
Reverend Bizarre’s second album isn’t quite as flawless as their first album was – I’ve never been as taken with “Fucking Wizard” as much as some of my friends are; it’s a good song no doubt, but for me it drags a touch too much before it speeds up for its climax at the end. Tthough, I admire the band for going “y’know what? Fuck it, let’s write a song about a horny-ass wizard” and going out to do the trick anyway. The first seven tracks, however, are incredible and showcases a band who could basically pull off whatever the hell they wanted to do in their chosen sub-genre, and did it with a level of personality and flair that is distinctly their own and nobody else’s. Not quite their best album, but perhaps the one to show somebody who doesn’t know or understand the band’s work yet, to start with. Regardless: absolutely fantastic album.
Favorite Track: By This Axe I Rule