Annie Get Your Growl
In the sub-genre of female-fronted death/thrash metal, the mantra seems to be “anything you can do, I can do better.” Bands like Arch Enemy and Holy Moses have merged with this boys’ club of screaming, growling, extra-speedy and loud metal, and in some cases bested the best. With their fourth studio album, Hyena, North Germany’s Cripper unabashedly cements themselves within these ranks, making it clear that having balls has nothing to do with what’s going on between your legs.
The opening track, “Hyena,” begins with some backward looping guitars and slow pounding, building gradually to the speed metal main stanza. Britta Gortz’s vocals don’t come for a few bars yet, teasing the listener with “can she or can’t she” anticipation. Rest assured — she can. Gortz does not come across as a wannabe or a gimmick; just the best vocalist for founders’ Christian Brohenhorst and Jonathan Stenger’s vision.
Having said all that, Cripper’s music is otherwise capable and functional, but not exceptional. There are a few standout moments: the simplicity of the main riff of “Bloodshot Monkey Eye” is refreshing. The speaking parts of “7”” are downright cool as Gortz’s accent comes across as sinister and frightening. “Tourniquet” is a brief, fast and booming hardcore-infused highlight. The mellow intro to the closing number “Pure” is a welcome disconnect from the rest of the album.
For the majority of Hyena, however, there is not much to keep a listener listening. Anyone who was drawn in by a pretty face and the hope of finding a diamond would be hard pressed to listen past the fourth track. There’s nothing wrong with Hyena, per se; there’s just not enough that’s right about it. But if you’re the type who can sit through a metal festival and not tire of hearing the same scales and riffs over and over again, Cripper will fit in with your catalog. Still, Cripper reminds us to celebrate that there are women who are willing to defy convention and who do it very well.