Review Summary: A great hard rock record, pure and simple.
They always say that to find the real gold of a genre, you have to dig deep, past all the generic retreads, beneath all the big names and labels, and through the hallowed names that can be traced back to the style's genesis. Those few who've trawled through it all are often rewarded. There are comparatively few people who know of Crush 40: but nearly all of them have been more than impressed. Comprised primarily of vocalist Johnny Gioeli (of Hardline and Axel Rudi Peli semi-fame) and respected video game composer and virtuoso guitarist and songwriter Jun Senoue, the outfit are primarily involved in making songs for video games, but their output is still very impressive and varied on its own terms.
'Crush 40' is a terrific, if not original, and energetic set. Opening with the pounding, riff-driven 'Live & Learn', you can tell the basic components of the band's sound: stripped down, raw melodic hard rock between XYZ and Burning Rain with a streamlined modern production values such as supplementary keyboards, synths and a sprawling mat of effects pedals.
There a plenty of genuine hooks and authentic riffs dotting the record, most of which Guns n Roses would be pleased to have. While on the hook-drunk 'Into the Wind', the band demonstrate a fleet-footed, breezier edge, they prove with the terse, nervy 'Dangerous Ground' and the muscular 'All the Way', aswell as the seismic crush of 'Open Your Heart', they can pull off heavy with plenty of panache and aplomb. As with many a modern rock record, the melodies are pushed to the forefront, highlighting both Gioeli and the plethora of guest vocalists' astounding ranges and versatility. While Gioeli delivers his parts with conviction and soul, Tony Harnell (taking lead on the sublime 'It Doesn't Matter') gives his elected song a frenetic, theatrical flavor. Ted Poley, taking lead on 'Escape from the City' (which, while good, seems like a throwaway exercise in rhythmic capability in comparison to the meticulous precision of the other songs) lends the song a breathless pace, though he pales in comparison to the other vocalists.
'Crush 40' is an exceedingly well-written and performed record, even if you might feel like you've heard it all before. It's for fans of Guns n Roses, Oasis, AC/DC and Motorhead. They, and those who like to indulge in a few guitar heroics, are the listeners who will derive the most entertainment from 'Crush 40'.