|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: DiveBomb||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2016||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 16||Rating: No Quote|
|Running Time: 74:34|
“They don’t make ‘em like they used to“ is an expression commonly used within hard music circles about how great bands were back in the day and how new bands take time to become appreciated, if they ever do. The saying has merit, at least when factoring how old school stalwarts from the eighties such as Deliverance, Bride, Stryper, Bloodgood, Sacred Warrior, Armageddon, Philadelphia and Saint all made recent comebacks to record at least one new album. Other well-known acts from the time in Whitecross, Barren Cross and Leviticus might not have released any new music but still get together to play the occasional one off show. But the phenomenon is not limited to signed bands in that those unsigned also have gotten in on the act, as can be found in the out of print and hard to find demo material from the likes of Soldier, Cross, Paradox, Crossforce and Taker which has seen recent re-release.
The latest band to go the custom cassette re-issue route is Thee Final Chaptre. Hailing from New Orleans, Louisiana, Thee Final Chaptre is the brainchild of guitarist and founding member Gary Wilson, whom got his start in the early to mid eighties with Christian themed bands Deus Vult and Divine Right. The group came into being in 1989 when Wilson, following a pair of tours with Young American Showcase, a show band with a positive message that played shows all over the country in order to help troubled youth find God, decided to ‘throw his name in the hat’ for one last ride. Hence, the meaning behind the Thee Final Chaptre name.
Solidifying its line up upon recruiting drummer David Osbourn, bassist Paul Starnes and vocalist Andrew ‘Tripp’ Whittington, Thee Final Chaptre got its start playing the local bar and club scene with a mixture of covers and originals that (as taken from its press material) draw upon influences ranging from Kiss, Queensryche and Iron Maiden to Stryper, Deliverance and Tourniquet. A deal with WEI Records led to the eighties based metal and hard rock of the group’s six song debut cassette only EP release from 1991, It is Written. Despite garnering interest of Polygram subsidiary Jaguar Records, Thee Final Chaptre disbanded in 1992 due to the usual reasons: limited touring opportunities, managerial mishaps, burgeoning creative differences and the changing musical landscape of the time.
It order to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its release, Divebomb Records re-mastered (from the DAT master) and re-issued It is Written in the fall of 2016 for the first time on CD with a previously unreleased demo bonus track and nine bonus live tracks. Included alongside updated cover art (by Steven Cobb) are vintage photos from the bands archives in addition to an extensive interview with Gary Wilson.
Opening It Is Written cut “Day After Day” represents all things quintessential Thee Final Chaptre: knife edge guitar riffs, pugnacious drumming, high octane vocals and furious tempo maintained its entire length. It is not all angst, however, in that quite the generous melody makes its presence felt all the same. Impression left is that this is not your typical eighties hair metal band; rather, what we have in Thee Final Chaptre is a heavier take on the form in also touching upon traditional metal and classic US power metal.
“The Key” follows and backs off from the breakneck tempo but not the heaviness. The song plays up a technical aspect, transitioning between moments in which the groups full on blistering momentum plays a lead role and others that temper to guitars of a gentler nature. Wilson cuts loose with a roaring stretch of lead guitar that proves he is more than a match for contemporaries Ray Parris (Barren Cross), Bruce Swift (Sacred Warrior) and George Ochoa (Recon).
Two songs into It Is Written and it becomes apparent Whittington is a more than above average performer with a powerful but smooth mid-ranged vocal style in which he can reach down for some fitting grit and gravel but also go for a high note with the best of them. I similar fashion that many identify with many of the previously noted bands for their lead vocalists - Michael Sweet (Stryper), Les Carlsen (Bloodgood) and Dale Thompson (Bride), etc - the same applies here in that Whittington is on the same level.
It Is Written closes its first half to the awesome nine minute epic “The Hallowed Hymn”, which reveals a progressive facet to the group’s songwriting abilities. Lengthy material, of course, is not uncommon to eighties bands, as can be found in tracks from Barren Cross (“Stage of Intensity” & “2000 Years”), Bride (“Heroes), Motherlode (“Father Of Lies”) and Philadelphia (“Jerusalem”).
“The Hallowed Hymn” matches the noted in terms of magnitude, with the needed creativity and variances that would allow it to not wear out its welcome despite its length. Not to go into too much detail, but the song opens its first three minutes calmly to stilly done guitars only to pick up at once for the near speed metal romp of the next three as aggressive guitars and extended instrumental proclivity lead the way. Final three revert to a melodic heading but heavier with tight guitar harmonies and ballad like emotion lending to the histrionic setting at hand.
Final three tracks (in my opinion) are not quite on the same level as their predecessors but still quite good. “Come As You Are” represents straight on and bare bones metal, no-nonsense with face first guitars and trenchant ‘come as you are’ backing vocals but technical in terms of the lengthy acoustic to metallic instrumental section. Standing out equally is the solid production (for an early 90’s demo release), with guitars cleanly mixed, low end defined and vocals forward but not to a fault.
“All For One” follows suite as another heavy hitter with open-air guitars and falsetto at the start only to move forward to Starnes’ punctuating bass line and more over the top backing vocals. Equally notable is how when Whittington goes for a high note he sounds uncannily similar to Axl Rose. Perhaps it is just me, but I hear a distinct Guardian flair in some of the guitar tones, albeit a much heavier version.
Closing It Is Written is “Don’t Let It Run You Down (Thunder Trilogy, Part I)”, a boogie flavored and high-energy hard rocker that would do early Van Halen and Stryper proud. Osbourn gets quite the workout on powerhouse drums, setting the maniacal low-end town with his frenetic playing while Wilson exhibits his every bit as frenzied riffs and chops. This one is just plain fun to listen to (put it on The Yellow & Black Attack and it would sound right at home). For those wondering, part two in the trilogy was written but never recorded, while part three is still in the works.
Bonus demo cut “Just A Memory” represents an acoustic ballad that reveals a softer and gentler side to Thee Final Chaptre. Keyboards fittingly accent the backdrop in standing alongside the harmonies and melodies to match, while a touching acoustic guitar solo rounds things out. Lone complaint is that vocals are somewhat forward in the mix.
I won’t be going into to much detail about the live bonus tracks because it is difficult to get a read on them due to slightly thin production (impression left is of a soundboard recording) and that I do not know what direction the group might have taken them if recorded in the studio. That said, “Blood In The Sand” and “Armageddon” are heavy set maulers that would not sound out of place on an early Saint album, while thrash heavy tracks “Insane” and “Edge Of Sadness” hint of eighties era Bride. A live version to “Just A Memory” is included along with another melodic piece in “Wisdom’s Call” that reminds of a shorter version to “The Hallowed Hymn”. I find Thee Final Chaptre at its live best on the bluesy metal flair of GNR-ish showstopper “Bullet In The Chamber”, which despite the potentially controversial title (somewhat akin to Bride’s “Head Looking For A Bullet”) is actually an anti suicide song.
Lyrically, remainder of the groups prose also reflects its faith with specific details pertaining to individual tracks found in the interview accompanying the CD mini-booklet. “The Key”, as its title suggests, is about ‘how Christ really is the key to life”:
Lord, we ask that you keep us strong
In our times of need
Give us strength to fight him off
Give us eyes to see
Keep us humble, give us faith
In our times of doubt
Let us look him in the eye
Give us the voice to shout, “No”
We’ve got the key, the key to life forevermore
“Come As You Are” is described as “an altar call at full volume”:
I listened to His words
And I clearly heard His call
He said don’t worry about your sins
If you ask I’ll forgive them all
Oh, I can set you free
Oh, won’t you just believe
You have the freedom of choice
To reject or receive
You can come as you are
“The Hallowed Hymn”, in the words of Wilson, details the manner in which “I turned my backslidden life around and learned to put God first above all else”:
Don’t listen to the Evil One – Or the wrath that has settled in
Listen to the Righteous One – Accept the life He has given
The Saviour speaks right through me now
To the King I humbly bow
People listen to my song
And heed every word I say
Accept the One who died for you
And forever praise His name
“Day After Day” talks of how “we are only promised one day at a time”:
With a feeling of regret
Wanting to relive your life
No need to dwell upon the things done
In your past
New life begins right now, today
Day after day
The pain fades away
On It Is Written, Thee Final Chaptre exhibits the potential that deserved to have gotten it signed back in the day. When adding up not just the It Is Written tracks but also those recorded live, the group had a very fine full-length album waiting in the wings if given the opportunity. Alas, similar to many bands of the era, said opportunity failed to present itself, but if it had I can see Thee Final Chaptre being mentioned in the same sentence with many of its previously referenced contemporaries. It Is Written in the end captures a unique moment in time and proves unequivocally how ‘they don’t make ’em like they used to’ when it comes to vintage bands from the eighties to early nineties.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing (It Is Written): “Day After Day” (3:26), “The Key” (4:34), “The Hallowed Hymn” (8:56), “Come As You Are” (4:50), “All For One” (4:11), “Don’t Let It Run You Down (Thunder Trilogy, Part I)” (3:34)
Track Listing (bonus tracks): “Just A Memory” (4:01), “Blood In The Sand” (4:07), “Insane” (4:15), “Wisdom’s Call” (5:37), “Whisper To Scream” (3:52), “Edge Of Sadness” (5:04), “Just A Memory” (4:27), “Bullet In The Chamber” (4:29), “Armageddon” (4:19), “Black Rain” (5:04)
Andrew ‘Tripp’ Whittington - Lead Vocals
Gary Wilson - Guitars
Paul Starnes - Bass
David Osbourn - Drums