Review Summary: Sinister and heavy featuring the tormented vocals of Dawn Crosby.
Fear of God is an early-nineties thrash band with a very short history. Despite constant line-up changes, label problems and rumors of substance abuse, the band managed to churn out two albums in their seven-year life. Their debut, Within the Veil
, is almost unanimously considered the band’s shining moment and not just because their second album turned out to be such a disappointment. It received such praise because of the greatness it hinted at (and occasionally attained) with its blend of thrash, rock and morbid goth overtones. Of course, it also received a lot of attention due to their eccentric vocalist, Dawn Crosby.
When Within the Veil
was released in 1991 it was fairly original due to the varying genres that it incorporated. The band built its musical foundation on the thrashy riff-style of Metallica
’s Ride the Lightning
and the blazing leads that come with it, but took that base in a whole other direction. They took the thrash and injected it with the swagger and occasional groove of 80s rock without any of the fruity, over-indulgences that are commonly associated with the genre. Those elements were replaced with a morbid, nihilistic atmosphere commonly connected to gothic bands. They delivered this haunting atmosphere through clean guitar sections, minor-chord progressions and the vocals of Dawn Crosby. Dawn’s voice was easily the main draw of the band. She never tried to sing, never tried to make things sound pretty and never allowed the listener to feel anything except for unease. Instead she delivered her vocals in a schizophrenic manner that included whispers, shrieks, screams, growls, droning spoken-word and almost any other sound she could force her voice to make.
The band does a pretty good job of taking those various elements and creating a collection of solid songs, but they never seem to really achieve greatness until the final song. “Drift” is the sound of the band taking those elements and fulfilling the promise that they had only hinted at prior. It starts with a slow, pounding drum beat and Dawn’s layered vocals morbidly asking if you ever think about dying. After a few moments, the band introduces a crushing thrash riff against Dawn’s tormented screams. Over the course of the song she screams in pain, growls and seemingly threatens all that will listen. This performance, set against a backdrop of thrash riffs, creates a very sinister atmosphere that is only increased ten-fold when the song climaxes with her screaming like a banshee against another heavy riff.
There are many reasons why the band never reached the greatness that their debut hinted at including the reasons explained in the opening, but the final straw would ultimately be the death of Dawn Crosby. After exercising her demons through music for years, she finally died in 1996 of liver failure brought on by years of alcoholism. In the wake of her death, fans were left with a debut that hinted at greatness (and occasionally delivered it) and a mess of a sophomore album. Today this album is pretty hard to find but it’s out there so if you happen to stumble upon it, do yourself a favor and pick it up.