I’m writing this outside my apartment, inside my jeep, listening to Chain.exe. Feels awkward when you are typing a review inside a car, but anyways, I guess it is just the anxiety of something you have been waiting for quite a while, and then suddenly, your expectations are surpassed by what you are listening.
Chain.exe is no exception to my thoughts above. Musical genius Henning Pauly and his band mates, Matt Cash, Stephan Kernbach, Christian Becker, and Eddie Marvin along with a long list of special guests (including musician extraordinaire Mike Keneally and vocal legend Michael Sadler from Saga, Jody Asworth from the acclaimed Trans-Siberian Orchestra, along with rising stars Maya Heddi, Victoria Trevithick, and Edward Heppenstall) bring you this progressive metal masterpiece. Top notch production along with high quality musicianship bring this project alive (continued from Chain’s debut album Reconstruct), along with the Cash/Pauly lyricists duo writing memorable lyrics accompanied by wonderful melodies.
Chain.exe starts with the 38 minute long masterpiece Cities. This song alone is worth buying the album. Top notch melodies dominate this song, where not only Cash demonstrates his evolution and matureness as a vocalist, but Sadler and company demonstrate their abilities in singing an acapella, in a wonderful passage. Great drum work by Eddie Marvin and Kernbach (keys) closes the round up musicianship with a top of the line unison solo with Pauly on guitar.
Next up is the track called She looks like you, a wonderful ballad, a love song. A strong soft intro and a heavy follow up complete the song, but never overshadowing or loosing the focus that the lyrics express.
Eama Hut. Probably one of the best riffs I have heard in progressive metal. The balls and chunk in this song is so strong it makes you want to headbang (and its just the beginning of the song!!). The song shifts back and forth from balls and chunk to a “soft” part, then back again to an awesome passage highlighted by the vocals and orchestration, that could easily be described as some modern Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The highlights of the song besides the heavy riff are again Cash’s vocals, and Marvin’s drum. Even though each players’ part are very solid, the elements mentioned above overshadows the other instrumentals. You can hear that the solos are more structured than some other bands’ solos out there. One thing I have not mentioned in this review is the awesome mix of the bass. Crisp and clear, yet not taking away the essence of the bass.
Never Leave the Past Behind starts with an amazing Gregorian-like choir which scared the hell out of me the first time I skimmed over the track. Pauly’s guitar tone can’t get better than this (and all through the album). Another amazing headbanging riff, yet, not leaving the gothic element that was given in the introduction of the song. The song shifts back and forth to heavy and soft, leaving the gothic choir in the background, with a breath taking chorus. Again, Cash demonstrates his ability vocally with the awesome lines he sings. The patches and sounds used by Karnbach fit the song perfectly. Marvin’s double bass parts with the chorus on the background are simply amazing and sent me the chills all over my spine (as I am still sitting outside writing this).
Hot to Cold. A Saga cover song sang by Saga’s front man, Michael Sadler. How weird can that get? Pauly’s guitar playing not only involves heavy riffing and melodic solos, but in this song he also showcases his Classical Spanish guitar techniques. This is my first time I listen to this Saga tune, so I can not judge whether it was done right or wrong. I can only say it made smile by all the happy playing that is going around. This song reminds me of a heavy Spock’s Beard. This is probably the weakest track of the album, it’ good, but not that great as the rest of the album.
Last Chance to See. Last track of the album, clocking in at 10 minutes. Trevithick showcases her singing talent in this track. A beautiful piano accompanied my a wonderful voice. A great song dedicated to someone very special for Pauly. The song then changes to a more pop-rock oriented feeling, starting Mike Keneally in vocals. This is my first time hearing Keneally sing and he does it in great fashion. An amazing solo section pops in, with some beautiful bass lines (done by Christian Becker) that join Pauly’s playing. The song closes with a banjo and piano unison. A beautiful section.
Overall the album is very strong and solid. Probably the strongest in 2004, although there are a couple of long-awaited releases, one of them by Pain of Salvation (Be, Inside Out). As a band, Chain’s sound has evolved a lot comparing it to Reconstruct. Individually, Matt Cash’s vocals sound very different, but very good, and Henning Pauly has developed a signature sound easily identifiable in each his releases. Eddie Marvin’s drum sound is awesome, and he is getting better and better with each release. Christian Becker and Stefan Kernbach are not left behind. Both of them showcases wonderful performances, demonstrating not only the technical side, but also their melodical side as well. Chain is carrying the torch of fresh new progressive metal. A fresh release, very heavy, very technical, not pushing the limits, but conserving the melody, which in this days progressive rock is very lacking.
More information @ www.progrockrecords.com