|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Jeff Grady & Kelly Matthews|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 14||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 50:27|
Lordchain got its start in the early nineties when founded by lead guitarist Jeff Grady and drummer Kelly Matthews while initially under the moniker Eternity. Proceeding to develop its fan base by putting out several demo tapes and performing live, the group officially changed its name to Lordchain in 1996 in addition to starting the writing process for its self-titled debut release, which it officially put out in 1997. Lordchain, despite an ever revolving line up, recorded its sophomore album, Cracked, in 2002 and a follow up effort entitled Soulever two years later. After recruiting a second guitarist, Matt Hale, and bassist Adam Rhodes, Lordchain returned to the studio and began work on its fourth CD, the 2006 offering Looking Past The Moment, before releasing its fifth, Finding Balance, in 2007.
Lordchain can best be described as straightforward hard rock and metal with occasional groove and modern undertones. What stands out most about the group is its melodic based songwriting, a penchant it best puts on display throughout Finding Balance. The album, for instance, is made up of an equal amount of catchy up-tempo numbers - “Mystery”, “Hiding Place”, “Last Mile” and “Rise Up” all come to mind – and those heading in a hook driven mid-tempo direction (“My Story”, “Turbulence”, “Lost In The Noise” and “Millstone” are worth noting). When Lordchain flexes its muscles, nevertheless, it can also deliver a quality metal track, reflected in the guitar driven sounds of “Slipping Away”, “Never End” and “Victim”. The ballad “Life Inside” serves to showcase the diversity of the bands songwriting skills.
Finding Balance, despite being a consistent listen from front to back, does not come without a few shortcomings that must be noted. The first is a slight predictability as a result of the majority of its material coming in at around the three minute mark. Now, while it has always been my opinion a song should not necessarily be judged by its length, I cannot help but think it would have been beneficial if Lordchain had varied its songwriting structure by giving us a few more compositions in the four and five minute range. And that leads us to the second area of concern: and that is the lack of emphasis the band places on its instrumental sound. While Jeff Grady and Matt Hale are able guitarists who adeptly adorn the project with their muscle-laden and tight as a nail riffing, I wish Jeff had cut loose a bit more on lead guitar. There are several songs here, for example, either lacking guitar solos or which the soloing is on the restrained side of things. But when he does choose to cut loose – “Slipping Mind” and “Never End” deserve mention – he proves a very fine musician. All in all, Lordchain could learn a lesson from other groove based hard rock outfits such as Judah First and Immortal Soul by understanding how an extended instrumental section can make a good song even better.
Matt Hale and Kelly Matthews trade off on lead vocals (Matt handles “Last Mile”, “Life Aside”, “Rise Up Again” and “All I Have” and Kelly the ten others). The two bring a similar clean and smooth sounding vocal style that, to be honest, can be difficult to distinguish. If I were to invite a comparison, Matt brings the more even delivery and Kelly an occasional touch of grit. Irregardless, the two turn the area of lead vocals into a strength. The same can be said for the rhythm section of Adam Rhodes (bass) and Kelly Matthew (also drums), who lay down a ton of groove in establishing a rock solid foundation for the band to rest its sound upon.
The albums quality production values mirror the bands experience – remember this is Lordchain’s fifth album – in the studio.
The lyrical direction taken on Finding Balance is positive and encouraging in openly reflecting the faith of Lordchain’s members.
Album opener “Mystery” fades in to several seconds of guitar feedback before taking off to a brazen mix of rhythm guitar and drums. Gaining even further initiative, the song moves on to an up-tempo chorus talking about God’s unconditional love:
How could you love me for who I am?
It seems to me a mystery that You
Love me despite myself. It seems to me
The quick drum solo at the start of “Hiding Place” gives way to a determined guitar riff. The song maintains the unwavering momentum as it plows through its first verse, not peaking until achieving the catchy but smooth sounding chorus that follows. A rhythm guitar driven instrumental section is backed by a hard hitting mix of drums. “Hiding Place” touches upon the issue of spiritual warfare:
I know who you are. You bring on all
my pain. You’re just a deceiver. Like
poison in my veins. Exist to kill. You
try to make me fall. But I know your
army. I shred through them like paper dolls
The instrumental based opening to “Last Mile” trades off between an open air rhythm guitar and a forcefully delivered blend of bass and drums. Tapering off upon obtaining its first verse, the song evenly transitions to a refined chorus standing out as a result of its melodic based appeal.
“My Story” represents one of the albums more guitar driven pieces. The song immediately kicks in hard and heavy before powering through its first verse in steadfast fashion. The tempo does not slow, however, until a resounding chorus driven by an overriding guitar riff is achieved. “My Story” talks about leaving the past behind:
Moving on, letting go from all that
complicates the soul. Holding fast
To what I know. And that’s how my
The aptly titled “Turbulence” maintains the mid-tempo impetus. A faith based song, this one takes a commanding rhythm guitar sound and interweaves it with an emotionally charged chorus and lyrical direction on the encouraging side of things:
You cast away my sin as far as the
East is from the west. I’m feeling
Weary again. But in You my soul finds rest
A bass guitar solo opens a rollicking instrumental section (one of the albums best).
Finding Balance heads in ballad territory with “Life Aside”. A piano slowly upholds the song its distance, bringing out the best in its heartfelt chorus and instrumental section carried by a guitar solo standing out fluidly in the mix. “Life Aside” talks about maintaining the faith in all life’s circumstances:
As I lay in my cold damp tears. And
now I try to fight away all the years
And now I know just what to do inside
Please give me strength to lay my
“Lost In The Noise” returns the album to its hard rocking ways. The song maintains an excess of mid-tempo swagger during its verse portions, not picking up in pace until procuring a weighty chorus in which a bottom heavy setting is put into place. I wish the band had expounded upon a rhythm guitar driven instrumental section.
Finding Balance reaches its peak with three top of the line tracks in “Slipping Away”, “Millstone” and “Rise Up Again”.
“Slipping Away” showcases some slow and driving riffs that bring to mind the old XT number “I’m Not Alone” (off Extended Empire). The song gradually plods its way forward from the start, slowly traversing its first verse and a catchy chorus that almost comes across radio friendly in capacity. Great song with a huge hook guaranteed to draw you in on first listen. Good lyrical direction as well:
Lonely nights are haunting more
often than before. I feel I’ve strayed
away from You. You said that You’d
love me. You’d be coming back for me now.
I stare into empty space. I need to feel
Your touch again
“Millstone” jump starts to a ton of guitar driven groove. The song proceeds to drive through its first verse with the rhythm guitar hammering in and out of the mix, tapering off for its pre-chorus only to regain the lost initiative for a muscular chorus delivered in decisive fashion. A near doom-ish setting is established throughout a plodding instrumental section.
The up-tempo “Rise Up Again” represents the bands songwriting skills at their very best. This one stands out with its exquisite joining of crunchy rhythm guitar and punchy bass lines, an anthem-like chorus and instrumental section backed by an earnest mix of drums putting it over the top. “Rise Up” is aptly named:
When I am weak, I don’t know what
to say. Give me strength to make it
through today. Give me words to
speak to them somehow. Face down
and broken. It’s time to share again
“Never End” and “Victim” represent two of the albums heavier and more guitar driven tracks:
“Never End”, driving and steadfast in focus, can best be described as a three minute slab of metal in which a literal torrent of rhythm guitar stands alongside an intent chorus every bit as pointed as the music here:
A never ending cycle. Escape for me is
vital. There’s blood on my hands. The
wages of sin. Will this never end?
Topping things off is an instrumental section carried by a blazing stretch of lead guitar.
“Victim”, on the other hand, picks up the pace with its all out up-tempo aptitude. Advancing in a rollicking manner from start to finish, the song gives rise to an Essence Of Sorrow-like quality with its relentless assault of heavy duty riffs and hook of the non-stop prevailing variety.
Closing out Finding Balance are two of its least descript songs in “All I Have” and “Breath You In”. Now, by “least descript” by no means am I implying the two are bad but rather not quite up to the standards of the albums better material.
“All I Have”, for example, is a slower number with some modern flavorings but would have stood out further with a stronger chorus hook. Good lyrical direction, though:
I struggle in myself to find my way
I close my eyes and make the choice
But a stubborn heart must learn
To hear what You say and list to
“Breath You In”, the albums longest composition at 5:37, comes across in the form of a straightforward hard rocker showcasing more faith based lyrics:
Now I’m older, I can look back and
see where I’ve been and learn from
past mistakes and I’m so glad God
forgives. He takes me back again.
There’s healing in His grace
Consistency would be the best way to describe Finding Balance in that all its material holds up under repeated play. Yes, some songs are better than others but in the end I find myself challenged to hit the skip button. Lead vocals and production are other strengths worth noting. That being said, I would like to encourage Lordchain on any project it records in the future to place more emphasis on its instrumental sound while varying its songwriting structure a bit as well. Still, if you are a fan of hard rock in all its forms you cannot go wrong with Lordchain and Finding Balance.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Mystery” (2:35), “Hiding Place” (3:30), “Last Mile” (3:08), “My Story” (3:28), “Turbulence” (2:59), “Life Aside” (4:23), “Lost In The Noise” (3:30), “Slipping Away” (4:15), “Millstone” (3:54), “Rise Up Again” (3:11), “Never End” (3:13), “Victim” (3:01), “All I Have” (3:42) & “Breathe In You” (5:37)
Matt Hale – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Jeff Grady – Lead Guitar
Adam Rhodes – Bass & Keyboards
Kelly Matthews – Drums & Lead Vocals