Chain - Chain.exe

Year of Release: 2004
Label: ProgRock Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 79:57:00

Chain.exe is the second album from Chain, the band that features Henning Pauly and Matt Cash (the folks behind the Frameshift projects as well), and on this CD, guests Michael Sadler (Saga, vocals) and Mike Keneally (Mike Keneally Band, guitar and vocals). Aside from the lengthy suite "Cities," which spans the album's first seven tracks, the music here is quite a mix of flavors, including mid-tempo rock and metal. In the metal mode, on more than one occasion I thought of Metallica, as you get the same kind metal riffs and rhythms. The metal aspects dominate, and that's very much okay with me.

The aforementioned "Cities" includes a little of everything - moving from progressive metal of the orchestral variety (dynamic shifts, orchestral elements, searing guitar solos) to soft keyboard/vocals passages, to at times having a rootsy, gospelly, countrified-rock feel al la The Black Crowes, even down to Cash sounding a bit like Chris Robinson; Pauly does play banjo at one point. In between we get rolling piano-like keyboard passages (Stephan Kernbach), a hot and honking sax solo (Little Atlas' Steve Katiskas), jazz-like interplay, passages that recall Copeland's "Hoedown,"... and at other times we get something that sounds a bit like Saga, and not just the parts where Sadler sings, as there's a certain keyboard effect - too short really to say phrase - that seems to come from the Saga school of parpy keys, this played off some earthy yet ethereal, Middle-Eastern styled operatic female vocals from Maya Haddi - a dramatic moment and one of my favorites. You'd think something this diverse would sound chaotic, but there is just such a smooth transition between these feels that somehow seems natural. In fact, I'd have to say, the whole title track is my favorite - it's diverse and doesn't lose one's interest throughout the entire length, restating lyrics and themes in different tones and tempos.

The album also includes a recognizable but different version of the Saga piece "Hot To Cold" (with Sadler on vocals, 'natch) - it was originally intended for Saga tribute album. I have to say, it wasn't until now, as I'm writing this review, that I realized the lyrics seem to describe someone with bipolar disorder... though I doubt that's what it's really about.

The final track, "Last Chance To See" is somewhat the oddball here, and given the diversity here (as mentioned) that's saying a lot. Dedicated to Douglas Noel Adams, the writer best known for his Hitchhikers series of books, Pauly pays tribute to the to underlying messages in Adams' writings. Back to the music ... I uh ... thought of a Michael Jackson pop ballad, actually. I'm not sure if it's Cash on lead vocals here, but... if so, it means his voice is even more flexible than you'd think... though I'm not sure if sounding like Michael Jackson is a good thing on a metal album...? (Visiting the Chain site, it is Cash). Guest vocals and guitar (including a solo) come from Mike Keneally, and guest vocals from Victoria Trevithick. It's not a bad track at all, mind; it just seems... um... "whimpy" (musically, overall) compared to the driving metal of "Eama Hut." "Eama Hut" is a track that could have been on An Absence Of Empathy, if not lyrically, certainly musically. This and "Never Leave The Past Behind" will leave no doubt that Chain are a metal band, here throwing in a bit of the gothic (haunting, Gregorian-like chorus, though brief). It is here is where I thought of Metallica, a bit of "One" in the rhythms. But it's also very melodic and includes "lighter" contrasts.

Giving Chain this metal edge are, aside from Pauly on guitars, Eddie Marvin on drums and Christian Becker on bass.

Chain.exe is a pretty nifty album, all in all; a little of everything to please all ears, and I think all ears will be pleased with all of it. Good vocals, tight arrangements, lots of energy.

Cities [spans tracks 1 -7] (37:31) / She Looks Like You (4:52) / Eama Hut (9:51) / Never Leave The Past Behind (10:18) / Hot To Cold (6:33) / Last Chance To See (10:12)

Henning Pauly - guitars, banjo, bass, keyboards
Matt Cash - vocals
Stephan Kernbach - keyboards
Christian Becker - bass
Eddie Marvin - drums


Michael Sadler - vocals
Mike Keneally - vocals, guitar
Sean Andrews - stunt bass (9)
Steve Katsikas - saxophone
Victoria Trevithick - vocals
Maya Haddi - vocals
Jody Ashworth - vocals
Edward Heppenstall - vocals

Reconstruct (2003)
Chain.exe (2004)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: December 11th 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1618
Language: english


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