|Musical Style: Metal/Thrash||Produced By: Chained|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 57:45|
Sweden is home to some of the more exciting groups in the Christian metal genre. The scene got its start in the early eighties with Jerusalem, Charizma and Leviticus, three pioneering acts that paved the way for those that followed in subsequent decades: The nineties found Veni Domine, Laudamus and Narnia coming into their own while Audiovision and Harmony got their start following the turn of the century.
Chained is the latest act from the region to deserve consideration. Put together in 2006 by guitarist Daniel Persson, drummer Stefan Nielsen and vocalist/guitarist David Sandstrom, Chained released a two song EP entitled Shattered Minds in early 2007 prior to rounding out its line up with bassist Jonas Stenlund a year later. Work soon began on the follow up effort Grateful Sinner, a full length work independently released by the band in 2009.
Musically, Chained takes a foundation of thrash metal – the group lists its influences as Pantera, Living Sacrifice and Megadeth – and joins it with elements of traditional and classic metal. The end result is a sound not only powerful and aggressive (please keep in mind the previously referenced influences) but memorable at the same time (it must be noted how Chained imbues its material with distinct melody structures).
While “My Saviour, My Lord”, “Shattered Minds” and “War Is Hate” feature some riffs that would not sound out of place on the first couple of Deliverance albums, the three are also quite catchy. The same can be said for “Tearing Down My Walls”, a piece mixing bluesy elements with thrash, and “Conquerors”, with its groove based thrash metal approach.
The haunting “The Weakest Are The Strongest” even brings some doom-based moments while “Grateful Sinner” and “Like A Rattlesnake” allow for a traditional metal influence. The same heading is maintained on “Bound For Glory” and “Can’t Have My Soul”, two pieces adding to the albums consistency.
David Sandstrom, with his “gruff” and “husky” vocal delivery, perfectly complements the music at hand without coming across overbearing. One reviewer who described him as “Lemmy mixed with a little UDO” hit the nail on the head. Sandstrom joins Daniel Persson to form quite the dominant guitar team. The two adorn the project with their unremitting riffs and duel lead guitar contests, best exhibiting their abilities throughout the extended instrumental excursions gracing “Conquers” and “Bought By Blood”. If you like thrash guitarists such as Glenn Rogers and George Ochoa (both Deliverance) then these two will be right down your alley.
Bassist Jonas Stenlund and drummer Stefan Nielsen must be mentioned for the aggressive manner in which they anchor the albums low end.
Production values are spot on for the genre. No, not too much polish as to take away from the bands natural energy but not any thinness to detract from the music at hand either.
The album opens to “My Saviour, My Lord”, a four minute crunch-fest mixing a profusion of thrash heavy riffs and relentless impetus with a perfect but subtle melody. Put this on the first couple of Deliverance albums and it would sound right at home, both musically and lyrically:
You paid for my life with Your blood
You suffered in my place
You catch me when I fall
You’re with me ‘til the end of days
“Shattered Minds” moves at the faster tempo while maintaining the thrash flavored proclivity. The songs verses, charging ahead in near forceful fashion, mesh well with a grinding chorus that might border on the trite if it were not for the charisma-laden vocals of David Sandstrom.
“Grateful Sinner” mixes elements of traditional metal and thrash. No, the albums title track might not be the catchiest of numbers – the chorus is rough and raw-edged as it gets – but the bands penchant for the all out assertive is more than enough to put it over the top. “Grateful Sinner” delivers a salvation message:
If only you would listen, if only you would try
For you He had to suffer, for you He had to die
I stand here as a witness of mercy from above
He gave me full redemption and filled me up with love
“Tearing Down My Walls” represents this reviewer’s choice track. The song actually brings some bluesy guitar work to a hard hitting environment, allowing for a bottom heavy hunger in flowing through tranquilly driven passages and others upheld by a trademark heavy duty rhythm guitar.
The only song here I struggle with is “Drained”, a speed metal romp in which the band does not quite pull off. Perhaps it is the repetitiveness of the chorus but the overall feel I get is heavy handed. Persson and Sandstrom, however, complement things with their fast fingered lead work.
“Conquerors” mixes a ton of groove with a thrash heavy milieu. Showcasing a brilliantly executed chorus - “Your victory on Calvary/Set me free so I will follow You” – and extended instrumental interlude, the song highlights some of the albums more arresting moments.
Everything about “Bought By Blood” speaks of aggression. The song mixes in elements of traditional metal, plowing its distance to frenetic riffs in abundance in establishing a setting as bristling as it gets. Closing things out is another lengthy instrumental section. Lyrics are simple but straightforward:
God almighty clear my vision
Lead me safely on my mission
Lead me on the road to glory
To tell the world the greatest story
Chosen for the plan
Given power for the job
Bought by blood…
“Like A Rattlesnake” maintains the straightforward direction. Yes, this one is as tenacious as they come, aligning a bottom heavy chorus (that finds the rhythm guitar swirling from the right to left channel) with Sandstrom’s snarls in just the right amount.
This leaves only one question to ask at this point: And that is do they even have rattlesnakes in Sweden?
“Bound For Glory” is as back to basics as it gets. No frills and straightforward in demeanor, the song holds up under a proven chorus hook but is ultimately carried by the worshipful feel to its lyrics:
Bound for glory I’ll live free
You are the Holy Trinity
Through His blood I’ve been set free
Bound for glory you and me
By His grace and loving hand
I’m heading for the promises land
The joining of heaviness and praise based works to perfection.
The consistency is maintained on “Can’t Have My Soul”. The song brings quite the rumbling low end – Stefan Nielson is all over the place on drums – that serves to sustain the dogged mid-paced propensity. That said, like most of the material here you will find just enough melody to be drawn in.
“The Weakest Are The Strongest” finds Chained putting its creativity in full display. The song proves experimental in nature, moving most of its length to eerie bass guitar driven passages carried by spoken word delivery but also delving into occasional generous instrumental excursions. It works to perfection as Sandstrom ruminates on finding hope in the midst of life’s darkest moments:
The only light I see is the brightest shade of black
How did I get here I ask myself but I don’t have the answer
My way out of the shadow is to give myself up
I know this but still I’m fighting back
I need You to light the path to carry me out of the dark
Three minute speed metal piece “War Is Hate” knifes its way to furious waves of hammering drums and high-octane riff assaults. Harsh backing vocals step forward to drive its burly chorus. Nice.
Fans of thrash and traditional metal will find a lot to like in Grateful Sinner. The music here is without a doubt heavy but features notable melody structures at the same time. And that is what makes this such a successful release: You are not going to be bored by endless repetition or cringing at the vocal delivery. The forthright lyrics and focused musicianship only adds to the albums appeal.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “My Saviour, My Lord” (4:08), “Shattered Minds” (5:07), “Grateful Sinner” (4:00), “Tearing Down My Walls” (5:55), “Drained “ (4:07), “Conquerors” (3:50), “Bought By Blood” (5:30), “Like A Rattlesnake” (4:58), Bound For Glory” (3:50), “Can’t Have My Soul” (5:36), “The Weakest Are The Strongest” (7:20), “War Is Hate” (3:07)
David Sandstrom – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Daniel Persson – Guitars
Jonas Stenlund – Bass
Stefan Nelsen – Drums
Bob Beeman – Voice on “Conquerors”