“The word from the Kremlin today is that any hopes for détente were slim at best…”
That faux-newscast intro to Détente’s “Russian Roulette” proved depressingly prophetic, at least in terms of the band’s initial impact. In their first attempt, these Los Angeles-based thrashers made only a small dent, releasing a handful of demos and this one full-length, released originally on Roadrunner in 1986. That year, of course, was a massive year for thrash, spawning all-timers like Master Of Puppets, Reign In Blood, Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, Doomsday For The Deceiver, Eternal Devastation, Pleasure To Kill, Game Over, and Darkness Descends.
Recognize No Authority got lost in the shuffle, and you can blame whatever combination of reasons you like, be it timing or competition or just the band’s bad luck – shortly after Recognize’s release, drummer Dennis Butler suffered an injury that delayed any hopes for follow-up touring. But as I listen to this now, one thing is clear: Whatever may have held back Détente, it wasn’t the music.
In 1986, female-fronted thrash bands were very few and far between. Belgian speed-metallers Acid had come and gone, a primitive version of thrash that would prove fun but not astounding. The UK’s Sacrilege released Behind The Realms Of Madness a year earlier, a great Discharge-indebted punk/thrash beast, crusty beneath Lynda Tam’s bark and bite. The debut album by Germany’s Holy Moses came out just a few months before Recognize No Authority, but it wasn’t until that band’s second record that they achieved significant quality. The best of all female-fronted thrash records, Znowhite‘s massive Act Of God, wouldn’t be released until 1988.
Recognize No Authority erupts from the proverbial gate with the ripping “Losers” – Dawn Crosby’s snarl is powerful, vicious, biting through lines like “You’re the loser / not a winner / You were born to lose.” The band is on full-blast, speed-soaked and blistering, a hardcore-leaning thrashing reminiscent of Nuclear Assault or Hirax. Détente isn’t overly technical, but their metal is certainly spirited and speedy. The riffs are straightforward, but the songwriting is strong – “Holy Wars” rides a Megadeth-y bass intro through to Crosby’s spiteful “Holy Wars! You keep killing / you don’t know who it’s for.” Obviously some songs are better than others, but there’s really no bad track – even the instrumental number “Catalepsy” holds up, devoid of the charismatic feral snarl brought to the rest of the proceedings.
After Recognize failed to gain recognition, Crosby fired most of the band, and those former members formed the short-lived Catalepsy. After Catalepsy’s collapse, guitarist Ross Robinson moved to the other side of the recording desk, producing Fear Factory’s Concrete demo, the early Korn albums, Sepultura’s Roots, and about seventy-five other records I don’t want to hear again. (To his credit, Robinson did produce At The Drive-In’s Relationship Of Command, which is great, and a Glassjaw record that I enjoyed.) In 2007, Détente reformed with vocalist Tiina Teal and most of the original members (minus Robinson), releasing a belated follow-up to Recognize No Authority in 2010’s Decline.
With new players, Crosby soldiered on through a few more demos under the Détente name, all of which point clearly towards her next group, the also underrated Fear Of God. That band was signed to Warner Bros. and released a solid goth-thrash record in 1991’s Within The Veil, as well as a follow-up I’ve not heard that was apparently anything but worthy. Tragically, Dawn Crosby succumbed to liver failure in 1996 after years of drug and alcohol abuse – she was 33.
This expanded edition of Recognize No Authority is comprehensive – on its second disc, it compiles Détente’s demos from 1984, 1987, and 1989, with those latter two featuring early versions of songs that would see official release on the first Fear Of God album. There’s also heretofore unreleased live and rehearsal tracks from 1985, both of which are pretty rough in audio quality. Taking things one step further into completism, this new version adds both of the post-Détente Catalepsy demos, from 1987 and 1988, and two Recognize-era songs re-recorded with Teal on vocals. There’s a 2007 reissue of Recognize No Authority that’s still pretty easy to find, but that one was only half as inclusive, just the album itself. Long-time fans and collectors will rejoice at the demos and rarities, and it’s certainly nice to have pretty much everything related to Crosby’s tenure in one convenient package. Still, in truth, all of those additions are what they are, bonuses. What’s best about either edition of Recognize No Authority remains that: Recognize No Authority itself, an early thrash diamond left in the dust.
Recognize No Authority was overshadowed by the rest of the Class Of 1986, and honestly, it’s not quite on par with the absolute best of that bunch. But it’s still damn good, and it deserves a much fairer shake than it ever got before. Maybe now it can get some recognition.