If you were suddenly plunked into the Phoenix music scene in the mid-'90s, the first thing that would strike you was how, despite reports to the contrary, heavy metal was very still alive here, fortified by hardcore, grunge, and industrial.
Walk into any rehearsal space or club, and you would hear a compressed, distorted, almost belching guitar sound that you almost never hear anymore. But that sound was pretty inescapable in 1995.
I’d almost forgotten how omnipresent it was until you hear the first few seconds of “Trick 900,” the opening track on Crushed’s just-released collection of unreleased demos from 1995 to 1999 called Demolation. You’ll hear it intermittently across this 19-track trek, but you’ll hear lots of other sounds from the '90s, too — hooky, almost pop arpeggio riffs from guitarist Mike Halland and the superb vocal delivery from Mark Lauer. At a time when every hard rock frontman was expected to sing like corrosive battery acid was being poured on his head, Lauer's pleasing-to-the-ear vocals, more Boy George than Hulk, made Crushed stand out from the pack. Here was a heavy band that could deliver a pop tune like “Galaxy Craze,” or cover the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way" and make you believe it was always meant to be played with just two acoustic 12-strings (that “unplugged” thing was still a pretty big deal). No wonder the major labels circled their wagons around this band several times throughout its existence.
“One thing I always appreciated about Crushed was the diversity. If something sounded good to us, we would just do it and not worry if it was this style or that style,” says guitarist Mike Halland, who views this 19-song collection of demos as the recordings that landed the band “two record deals and years of both triumphs and tribulations.”
Crushed is a band that had several lives in its 20-year career, and while the band's live performances have become sporadic in recent years, they never stopped completely. The CD release show on December 9 at Shady Park Tempe with Fred Green, Sunset Voodoo, and the Routine will mark a return to live work after a four-year absence.
In 1999, the band did a Mason Jar showcase for Atlantic, Epic, and Roadrunner Records. Atlantic won out but dropped the band when they didn't come up with the requisite novelty hit that every post-grunge band was forced to produce to get a slot on alternative radio and compete with the likes of Smash Mouth and Marcy's Playground.
And that's the climate where these demos reside. Despite being housed in a cover that depicts a world contaminated by a deadly virus, the '90s isn’t such a bad place to be holed up in for a while now.
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