I first heard this album when I was still at school, around 1984. I borrowed the tape from a mate and I was blown away. Obviously there was the much-vaunted Rush influence, but this was much heavier; the other big influence, I would say, was Ozzy-era Black Sabbath. Now, in those days, Rush and Ozzy were just about as cool as it got. There was also a strong contingent of newer bands - the tail-end of NWOBHM, if you will. I remember Mama's Boys, Heavy Pettin, Preying Mantis and Glasgow as all being of particular interest, as well as the related prog movement of the time, particularly Pallas and Marillion.
Chasar seemed to be a bridge between the two styles. Maybe it's because of that - the fact that they were seen as being neither one thing nor the other - that led to their problems in getting signed. It's a real bastard that there was never a follow-up album to this because they had the songs, the well-deserved rep as a killer live act, and most of all, the genuinely jaw-dropping musicianship.
This reissue has been digitally remastered from vinyl and has a greater depth of sound than the American Phonograph and Mausoleum LP versions, with very little noticeable vinyl noise. For those of you with reservations about CDRs, don't worry, this is high quality kit, playing perfectly on the three different decks I have at hand.
The first track, "Destiny" was a regular opener in the live set and remains one of my favourite tracks. A jagged riff with an anti-oppression lyric straight out of Thatcher's Britain: "I was never meant for here, I was born to fly/But now you've got me in your cage I've got to run, Do or die ..." Alec's somewhat raw vocals, mentioned more than once at the time of the album's release as a weak point, now stand as one of the reasons this album doesn't sound as dated as many of its contemporaries. A reluctant singer, Alec avoided the fashionable scream-for-effect histrionics associated with metal acts of the day and his matter-of-fact "I'd rather be playing the guitar" delivery lends the album the same kind of punky edge Paul Di'anno brought to the first two Iron Maiden albums.
"Visions Of Time" is the first of the album's epics, it's a great brooding beast of a thing, immediately contrasted with "Deceiver", a straight-ahead three-minute rocker with a violent riff and girl-gone-bad lyrics. This is followed up with another epic, originally the closer of Side One, and the song (live covers excepted) that would link Chasar's name irrevocably with Rush: "Kings". If memory serves, this was the first song the band ever wrote together and it sees them wearing their influences on their sleeves - and a song about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, no less. Still, this doesn't stop it being a fine tune ... and, where much of it sounds like it could be an outtake from "2112", they can't resist firing out some seriously heavy sounds as the track progresses.
"Lights" continues the epic theme, this time with a surprisingly 'poppy' feel (in as much as a seven-minute power-trio rock song can be 'poppy'...) and a scary guitar solo. The album ends with a remarkable double-whammy - the full-on heavy rock of "Gypsy Roller", always a live favourite, with a big riff, great solo and Lizzy-esque lyrics about gypsies and sheriffs, and the epic to end them all, "Underground".
"Underground" encapsulates everything about Chasar at this time. Each of the band members' virtuosity is showcased, with Pete going for 'solid' over 'flashy' and Jim's drums a standout throughout. The song is nine minutes long but it never gets boring due to a multi-faceted framework (the aggressive, not to mention impressive, main riff doesn't even kick in until two-minutes into the track) and a darkly grim lyric rounding out the album's overall mood. It's intense.
For me, this album sits comfortably alongside my early Sabbath, Queen and Zep albums. It really is that good.
Craig Hughes, 2000.
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