Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. This week, we contract a severe case of deiphobia with Fear of God and their classic Within the Veil (Warner Bros.).
Dawn Crosby was one of those damaged souls, an artist who was always going to burn out, not fade away. She sang like a woman possessed – and in a way she was. She grew up a victim of emotional and sexual abuse, had a drinking problem (that would ultimately be her undoing), and could not keep a band lineup together (partly due to personality clashes, partly due to a mercurial temperament, and partly due to a habit of starting relationships with her bandmates while already in relationships with another bandmate). Still, for all her faults, she was one hell of a frontwoman, pouring all those roiling emotions into her performances. Crosby had a chameleon’s grasp of persona, able to slip effortlessly from a childlike whisper to a snarl to Tom G Warrior breathy moans. It was the force of her personality that pulled Fear of God out of the underground, and that same personality that destroyed it.
Fear of God started as a thrash-era outfit known as Détente, featuring future Fear Factory/Slipknot/KoRn producer Ross Robinson. They put out one LP, Recognize No Authority, before that lineup imploded and, after some shuffling that included Raven drummer Rob “Wacko” Hunter (you know, the one with the football helmet and shoulder pads), the band coalesced around Crosby and guitarist Mike Carlino, who would become the main songwriter. Picked up by a Warners A&R person who was impressed with some of the demos they had been cutting, they went into the studio, changed their name due to a conflict with another group, and emerged with Within the Veil.
Featuring songs written over the course of three years, Within the Veil picked up on the zeitgeist of heavy music at the time, covering everything from thrash to the burgeoning alternative scene. Sometimes Fear of God sounded like Concrete Blonde, like with “Betrayed”‘s Southern Gothic. Sometimes they sounded like Testament, like on “All That Remains.” “Emily” thuds like a distaff Celtic Frost. “Wasted Life” would qualify as a ballad, but there’s nothing particularly ballad-like about the subject matter. It successfully bridges the gap between the headbangers and the artsy set, with Andy Wallace mixing it expertly to bring out the darkness within.
Within the Veil wasn’t a big success, but Warners wasn’t ready to give up on the band. Unfortunately, Crosby was, and after the backing musicians recorded a follow-up, she dissolved the lineup without laying down her vocals. After a few years and a lot more member turnover (including a European tour backed by the members of Wrathchild America), Fear of God resurfaced in 1994, on Pavement, with the disappointing Toxic Voodoo. Two years later, Crosby was dead of liver failure. She left behind one truly great album, and a legacy that would lay the track for fatal femme bands like My Ruin and Kittie. A tragic end for one of the great frontwomen of metal.