|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Jeff Grady & Kelly Matthews|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2010||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 16||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 59:03|
Southeast, Missouri based Lordchain is not as well known as many despite being veterans in the Christian hard music scene. The group got its start in the mid-nineties when it began the writing process for its first album, a self-titled work that it independently released in 1997. Putting out its sophomore effort Cracked in 2002, Lordchain followed up with three albums in four years: Soulever (2004), Looking Past The Moment (2006) and Finding Balance (2007).
On What Is, What Was, its sixth full length release from the summer of 2010, Lordchain continues to mix straightforward hard rock and metal with occasional groove and modern overtones. The project divides into two halves, with the first (What Is) featuring seven new Lordchain compositions and second (What Was) made up of five older songs (four re-recorded and one re-mixed) and three that are new. Now, when I found out that the album includes 15 tracks, my initial thought is that it was going to include a ton of filler and skip button after skip button, but such is not the case. The number of songs notwithstanding, What Is, What Was proves surprisingly consistent with the new material standing on its own and older complementing and melding well with the new.
Specifically, What Is, What Was finds Lordchain upgrading two key areas of its songwriting: the length of each individual tracks and variety of styles presented.
In the review I wrote of Finding Balance (80% grade), I complained about “a slight predictability as a result of the majority of its material coming in at around the three minute mark”. What Is, What Was, on the other hand, features eight tracks in the four minute range and one other approaching five, with the end result an album of greater continuity and that flows better overall.
Lordchain is all over the map stylistically, running the gamut from straightforward hard rockers “Kiss The World Goodbye” and “Friend To Me” to the groove driven “Invisible” and worship rock of “Desperate”. The group also delivers some blues influences, “Cry” and “Wisdom Tooth” reflect this best, in addition to a raucous, boogie flavored track, “Let It Rain”. Some of the albums finer moments occur when Lordchain is at its heaviest, such as on “Kiss That Kills” and “This Callous Heart, with their metal based sounds, and the almost thrash-like “Die To Self”. You will also find a couple of well done ballads in “Tomorrow” and “Life Aside”.
Lead vocals continue to be handled by guitarist Matt Hale and drummer Kelly Matthews. The two sing in a similar clean and smooth sounding style that can be difficult to distinguish, although Hale does present with a slightly higher range while Matthews takes a more gut-level and grittier approach. Irregardless, the two turn the area of leads into a strength.
Another constructive comment from my Finding Balance review revolved around its lack of lead guitar work, specifically encouraging the band to understand “how an extended instrumental section can make a good song even better”. And that is exactly what the group does in that What Is, What Was is full of guitarist Jeff Grady’s lead work, his soloing ranging from the blistering (“Cry” and “Let It Rain”) to the more bluesy (“Kiss That Kills” and “Wisdom Tooth”).
The rhythm section of Adam Rhodes (bass) and Kelly Matthews (drums) continue to lay down a ton of groove to help anchor the Lordchain low end. I particularly enjoy how Matthews is allowed to branch out and add some double kick drum work to “Lazy I” and “Desperate”.
Production values mirror the bands experience in featuring a clear and crisply defined sound. Rhythm guitar is done to near perfection while drums stand out equally well.
The album opens to “Losing Touch”, a powerhouse piece characterized by its front rhythm guitar assaults and churning low end. The boisterous scene breaks momentarily for a quieter passage upheld by a gentle acoustic guitar.
“Die To Self” takes the more aggressive heading with its use of occasional thrash-influenced riffs and vocals bordering on the extreme. Things smooth out – and bring a contrasting element in the process – for a surprisingly melodic based chorus. “Die To Self” talks about inner conflict:
Look in the mirror
And what stares back at me
A life deceiving
A fool is what I see
Conflict raging, torn apart
The truth of my life is revealed
Stab of guilt in my heart
A facture that longs to be healed
One more hope, one more prayer
One more vision left to share
One more King, one more crown
Die to self
A bluesy direction is taken on “Cry”. The song slowly and ominous plods through its verses to a pronounced bass line, not picking up impetus until acquiring an emotionally charged chorus backed by a resounding rhythm guitar.
“This Callous Heart” rates with the heaviest pieces here. Another aggressive rocker, the song stirs up quite the storm with its non-stop frenzied momentum and harshly driven backing vocals. This one is metal as it gets. The struggle against sin is the message at hand:
If I kick the past away and
Listen to what You’re saying
Redemption can breath on me
I hold on to this truth
That Is only found in You
This shattered life is made complete
I’ll open up and let You in
Free me from this pain and sin
Take this life that’s surely doomed
Break this callous heart in two
Matthews stands out with his mega tight drum performance on “Invisible”, three and a half minutes of groove driven hard rock. Melodic guitar harmonies carry an extended instrumental interlude.
An acoustic guitar upholds the extent of the albums first ballad, “Tomorrow”. Light touches of vocal melodies accent its chorus while a stretch of bluesy guitar rounds things out. Very nice. Lyrics are comforting in nature:
And will we choose to love
And will we choose to live
For a better tomorrow
And will we ever learn
And can our hearts still burn
For a better tomorrow
They say that love takes time
In a moment I can find
Your grace for me that haunt’s me still
Your love for me You’ve shown
I don’t have to be alone
It’s amazing how You break my will
“Let It Rain”, with its boogie flavored hard rock approach, ranks with the albums finest. You will find a great riff here – up-tempo, brazen and catchy as all get out – along with tons of energy and passion to grip your attention on first listen. Great lead guitar run as well. This one brings a praise and worship theme:
We lift You up in everything we do
We give you praise oh, Lord
Our Redeemer who was and is
And is to come
We praise Your name for the hope You give us
Through Your only Son
Let it rain, the great and mighty King
To pour His spirit out
“Kiss That Kills” brings a mid-paced metal sound, driven its length in crunch heavy fashion while mixing in the albums best stretch of gritty lead guitar. Another impressive rhythm section performance adds to the striking milieu.
A more up-tempo direction is taken on “Lazy I”. This one delivers a melodic touch, reflected in its big doses of backing vocals and guaranteed to pull you in proclivity. The great double kick drum work also deserves mention.
“Desperate” is a very well done semi ballad. The song starts by slowly maneuvering its verses only to gain initiative as the rhythm guitar kicks in to buttress its poignantly done chorus. A worshipful setting is garnered in the process. The desperation in question is for God:
This is my sanctuary
This is my place of rest
You kill the pain outside
A pillow to my chest
Now my eyes start to wonder
I set my gaze on You
You calm these thoughts of murder
And now my mind’s renewed
Life to inspire, meltdown the hatred
Walk through the fire, I’ve been cremated
I’m desperate for You
“Kiss This World Goodbye”, a no-nonsense and straightforward hard rocker, highlights some weighty as all get out riffs and a punch driven mentality. Put this on any Rez Band album and it would sound right at home.
“Friend To Me” takes a similar musical heading, delivering four minutes of back to basics hard rock complements by Matthews gravely vocal presence. Again, classic Rez Band comes to mind. “Friend To Me” brings some of the albums best lyrics:
Well, I heard somebody say that You were a good man
I heard somebody else say that You were dead
I heard somebody use Your name in anger
And I know You heard
I won’t repeat the things they said
Cause all this time You’ve been here with me
Right beside me everywhere I go
Just like, just like a family
Through times, through times
You’ve always been a friend to me
“Solace” slows things to an emotional mid-paced romp, scratching and crawling its way ahead to a staunch mindset but also quite melodic with the gripping undercurrents of its smooth sounding chorus. Some compelling contrasts are put forth as a result.
The blues driven “Wisdom Tooth” takes a gut-level approach, leaning towards the bottom heavy with its stalwart emphasis while delivering a run of cutting lead guitar. What else can you say expect quintessential Lordchain. As its title implies, “Wisdom Tooth” is a song of wisdom:
Well, it’s in the air on a Friday night
Well you want do wrong
But you know to do right
I hear the call of reckless ways of youth
But now I’ve found wisdom
One night ain’t worth the rest of your life
These pleasures never satisfy
One night can change the rest of your life
Revive the things you’ve crucified
Closing things out is the piano based ballad “Life Aside”. This one combines quite the moving environs with some bluesy guitar flavorings.
I began the review by suggesting Lordchain are not as well known as many despite being veterans in the Christian hard music scene. The group, however, should receive greater acclaim as a result of the musical consistencies presented on What Is, What Was. By expanding upon its songwriting – and presenting not just lengthier tracks but a surplus of variety as well – Lordchain has created by far its finest work to date. Fans of metal and hard rock with a groove emphasis would do themselves a favor by checking What Is, What Was out.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Losing Touch” (3:31), “Die To Self” (3:22), “Cry” (4:24), “This Callous Heart” (4:24), “Invisible” (3:27), “Tomorrow” (4:02), “Let It Rain” (3:05), “Kiss That Kills” (2010) (3:31), “Lazy I” (2010) (4:43), “Desperate” (2010) (3:16), “Kiss This World Goodbye” (2010) (4:03), “Friend To Me” (3:55), “Solace” (4:16), “Wisdom Tooth” (4:02), “Life Aside” (Remix) (4:22), “Unknown Track” (:34)
Matt Hale – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Jeff Grady – Guitars
Adam Rhodes – Bass & Keyboards
Kelly Matthews – Lead Vocals & Drums