Chastain – We Bleed Metal (Leviathan Records)Sunday, 25th October 2015
Far before the inferno-like interest in ‘female-fronted’ metal took ahold of the scene over the recent half-decade (air quotes surrounding the tag, as to this journalist what does gender have to do with quality?), there were select artists who championed the cause and could stand hand in hand with their male contemporaries. Chastain would be one of those favorites from the 1980’s, the exciting Euro-metal oriented power riffs from guitarist David T. Chastain surrounded by an equally adept rhythm section topped off with grit and passion on vocals by the unmistakable Leather Leone. This scribe still cranks Ruler of the Wasteland and The 7th of Never on a fairly regular basis as their 80’s output stands the test of time.
Returning to the scene in 2013 with a strong comeback in Surrender to No One, critics and aficionados speculate if the magic can occur again. Veterans are known to stay in certain conventional boxes, and David isn’t going to venture into any wild, down-tuned bouncy pastures or totally soften his sound to seek out commercial acceptance. His songwriting and riff choices come from the heads down Dio/Priest/early Savatage mold: meaty, rhythmic and mystical in sure-fire head bangers such as “Against All the Gods” and “Evolution of Terror”. Drummer Stian Kristoffersen unleashes all the rapid fire fill tricks as a kit master should, but also balances things out in slower passages for a solid tempo template on the moodier “I Am a Warrior”. And those who love high octane songwriting and neo-classical shred expertise will savor “All Hail the King” that harkens back to the aforementioned The 7th Of Never days.
Leather has similar melodic highs and depth of emotion in lower reaches as she had 30 years earlier – a testament to taking care of your voice and using said gifts to the benefit of each given song. David’s intuitive ability to churn out the right exotic chord progression in epic form through “Search Time For You” transports the listener to foreign lands, another treasure trove of taking Dio and Sabbath influences into a classic doom/power arrangement. Closer “Secrets” contains hints of modern licks, but Leone keeps the traditional roar and unyielding money notes for Chastain to remain conventional metal at heart – beyond another study in axe mastery for the instrumental break.
9 songs and close to 45 minutes of material, We Bleed Metal see-saws between the tried and true power elements Chastain fans know and love while taking into account some current techniques and tones. Devil horns approved.