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Daniel Ashcroft - Desperation Album Review

29 May 2011 // A review by Peter-James Dries

This is a message for those people who read my Crackpot Theory Black Metal Much? review: I told you so.

This new two CD set showcases the best bits of Dan Ashcroft's relatively short career in music and puts it against the products of his process of perfecting his art. Purely DIY, yet expertly designed and executed, Desperation proves itself to be worthy of its spot next to the major label releases in the metal section of JB HIFI and deserving of its place as a release under Palmerston North's $lave Collective.

For those who haven't seen the album cover yet, what you're looking at is a teenage boy, desperate by definition, ripping out his own eye to peak into the girls' bathroom. This is one of those rare releases, like Millie Jackson's Back to the Shit,where the cover art is actually a reflection of the album's title. Also like Back to the Shit the title reflects the content of the album; where Millie Jackson's album is a collection of shit songs, Desperation is a collection of desperate songs about desperation. In case the album cover isn't enough of an indication, the picture on the inside cover of a hitch-hiking Dan Ashcroft wearing his nipple-less shirt should tell you this album is Dan being true to his quirky self instead of sticking to the same generic metal recipe within the stale rap-metal genre. The result is a unique album with little semblance to anything I have seen under the broad umbrella of commercial music. Nowhere else but on this record will a slamming metal riff segue into an old school Snoop Dogg track or break into choral refrain.

The recording quality is improved since Black Metal Much? And a step closer to commercial viability. The toms are distinguishable from the snare and kick drum and have lost the sloppy resonance that made some of the early releases sound Dan was beating the shit out of a cardboard box.

Some of you will be pleased to hear that the rapping is back. The track 'Clinical Obsession'begins with fast death-metal riffagery and guttural screams, but by the end has progressed thru the genres of rap and synth pop.

'Intense Therapy' is where we see some of the heaviest guitar on the album, but like the previous track or a Beethoven symphony it goes thru several movements before concluding ending with 'It's a Doggy Dog World' from Snoop Dogg. Somewhere in the middle you'll find my favourite Dan Ashcroft quote; "I am not an Asshole. I am a man."  

Also noteworthy is a metal cover of Bomfunk MC's 'Freestyler,' which will surely touch the hearts of those alive enough in early years of the naughties to be touched by the original.

The last two complimenting tracks do a lot for the album. They tell a tale of teenagers in love while sticking to the umbrella theme of contrasting ideals, ideas and style and fitting to the album's title Desperation.

The second CD, the Crackpot Compilation, is a good introduction for those unfamiliar with the days of $5 ipsographic CDs at Mango Music and is a gauge of how far Dan Ashcroft has come for those, like myself, who have been there since the beginning. The compilation spans the entire Crackpot Theory back catalogue, in some sort of loose reverse order. It's good in the sense that this order makes the compilation work like a string of memory, from the most recent entry to the thought that is most foreign from this future.

People who have frequented the now obsolete Crackpot Theory Myspace will recognise a few of the previously unreleased tracks, such as "Webcam Girl" and "Caliente Maria." I remember first hearing these two tracks around the same time as purchasing Crackpot Theory's Vol. 3: Mix CD for a Double-Suicide. It was the first hint of Dan's work towards an increased production value and the coming deviation from the Rap-Metal genre, which culminated in the release of the previously reviewed Black Metal, Much?

'Babysitter' is one of the more commercial of the Crackpot tracks. I little professional mastering and the track wouldn't seem out of place between a bit of Slayer and Pantera on Hauraki. Those familiar with Dan Ashcroft's collaborations with AmosAnon will recognise some of the riffs, which I believe also turned up in a self-shot video of Dan on the Crackpot Theory Facebook and Dan's Youtube.

'The Picture' heads deeper into the 90s death metal aesthetics, while still retaining the familiar Crackpot aspects - the tight drum rolls, the shrill shreds, the quintessential Dan Ashcroft scream of residual teenage angst.

I suggest this album to those looking for something different, or those willing to support a struggling artist who paid out of his own pocket to produce a record for you to listen to (You pretty much owe him), or the diehard fans, or the new fans who haven't heard the origin of Dan.


About Daniel Ashcroft

Daniel Ashcroft is a multi instrumentalist/producer/composer based in Feilding/Palmerston North.

The concept of my project is to basically explore and write music of any genre, play any instruments I possibly can - and collaborate with as many singers as I can.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Daniel Ashcroft


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