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Special thanks to Mikael Johansson of 'Sweden Rock' magazine for
translating his reviews from the original Swedish.

Album Review - 'Chasar'

Progressive Metal/NWOBHM

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 a big 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 for your average teenage rock fan. There was also a strong contingent of newer bands - the tail-end of NWOBHM.  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 with a reputable label. 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.

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 early 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". The first song the band ever wrote together, this 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, ferocious, shred-machine 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 Marshall going for 'solid' over 'flashy' and his brother Jim's drumming 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 dark, grim lyric rounding out the album's overall mood.

It's intense.

Craig Hughes - '100axes' website, 2002

Album Review - Exit 'Turn The Page'

Progressive Rock/Hard Rock

This is some intelligent progressive heavy rock with a slick-but-gritty sound pitched somewhere between latter-day Rush and '10'-era Pearl Jam.  Alec's guitar sound is still all-bossing, however there are a couple of distinct contrasts with the Chasar album.  Firstly in the guitar-department,  Alec uses a bigger variety of tones and textures here and is willing to leave space, inviting comparisons as diverse as Edward Van Halen and Richard Thompson; his solos are shorter and punchier than in the past, and there is more acoustic to be heard.  The other major contrast - perhaps helping to bring out this variety in Alec's playing - is the remarkable voice of Gregor McGregor. Whereas Alec's singing on the earlier album is perfectly fine but deliberately functional, filling its role against the vituoso clamour of Chasar at full tilt, McGregor's voice here is an instrument in itself demanding its own space in the arrangements to be heard. This guy can sing! The power and tonal quality of, say Paul Rogers or Phil Mogg with occasional Geddy Lee phrasing ... it works.

As for the songs, well, they work, too. Plenty of light-and-shade in the song structures, with running lyrical themes of confusion, uncertainty, searching and assorted gloom (mirrored in the cover art). The title track and 'Madness' are fine, straight-ahead rock tunes, with the latter in particular breaking down for some atmospherics and an impressively-structured solo. 'Darkside' starts as an acoustic pop rocker with distinctly un-pop lyrics before the double tracked guitars lead up to a very Thin Lizzy finale. 'Let It Go' is a real album highlight with a 'what the fuck?!?' double-tapped opening riff and a stomping chorus, and 'The Silence' is all eerie guitars and drama.

'Pull the Pin' is probably my favourite track on the album. The open-string, grungey verse leading to a just-right Big Heavy Chorus before unexpectedly taking the album's most Rush-like turn halfway through.

Album finisher 'Wasteland' is a moody slow-builder, with another fine vocal turn, the lyric delivering recurring imagery of ethnic cleansing and torture chambers. Here too is the finest guitar performance on the album, with a perfectly judged solo balancing extremely advanced technique with unhampered expression.

Craig Hughes - '100axes' website, 2002

Album Review - No Dice Demo EP

Hard Rock/Progressive Rock

No Dice is a Classic Rock covers band based in Central Scotland, featuring Alec Pollock on lead guitar and vocalist Gregor McGregor.   The line-up is completed by Davie Shearer on drums, Gordon 'Gudge' Fyall on bass  and Finn Marshall on guitar   This EP is made up of studio recordings (except for the final track, AC/DC's classic 'Whole Lotta Rosie', which sounds very much like a soundcheck recording added here as a wee bonus) and the production is uniformly excellent throughout.

The band's live set stretches from old favourites by the likes of Rush and Bad Company to more recent material in the rock vein, and this is reflected in the surprisingly eclectic mix of tracks here.  First up is the Whitesnake gem 'Fool For Your Lovin'', which is given the straight-ahead rock treatment, somewhere between the original and the revamped Vai version in tone.  This sets the pace for the rest of the songs as there's no attempt here at 'soundalikes' - the band is certainly not afraid to put its own stamp on these tunes.  Next up, by way of complete contrast is The Police's 'Message in A Bottle' - McGregor having no trouble with those impossible Sting registers plus the welcome addition of some very cool fusion-style guitar work.

The next two tracks emphasise the newer sounds the band covers.   First up is 'Just Lookin'' (Travis?  Stereophonics?  I don't know, that sort of thing at any rate) followed by a fairly faithful (though storming) take on U2's 'Beautiful Day'.  Both are decent enough tracks, particularly the latter, but I get the feeling that the band's lack of the same kind of familiarity with these selections as they have with the older material leads to a less adventurous approach.

This is emphasised by the next track, the highlight of the EP - a powerful take on Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb'.  This is really spot-on - dark, heavy and passionate progressive epic of exactly the kind they don't make anymore.   Things are rounded off with the afore-mentioned 'Rosie', which after '...Numb' is a bit of light relief and, as ever an excuse for Alec to give it laldy on the solos.  No complaints there then.

Craig Hughes - '100axes' website, 2002

Sweden Rock
Album Review - 'Chasar' (Traxstudio CD Reissue)


Chasar is one of the relatively few Scottish NWOBHM-bands. The music journalists of London rarely travelled that far north which is why the band never got the attention they deserved.

The sound is in many ways RUSH meets heavy metal. Thereby it's a bit more complex than the average 80s band and the lyrics are a vast improvement to many bands that broke big. The only thing I'm hesitating about is Alec Pollock's voice, maybe he did that himself since he didn't sing in his next band EXIT. Among the seven songs on offer there are no fillers, for starters "Destiny" is as much a masterpiece as the last tune "Underground".

Other great songs are; the complex "Visions of Time", the epic "Kings" and their anthem "Gypsy Roller". The latter is a really scorching track that you can't get out of your head. Alec Pollock initiated this pressing himself which means limited quantities but nevertheless I say BUY and ENJOY! This is a treasure to discover.

Mikael Johansson - 'Sweden Rock' - 2001

Sweden Rock
Album Review -  Exit 'Turn The Page' (Traxstudio CD Reissue)


EXIT has one thing in common with CHASAR (See review in this issue), and that is guitar player Alec Pollock. Besides both bands appear to be influenced by Rush but Exit is more progressive than heavy metal. That is not to say that they are a strict copy of Rush - they are more than competent to offer strong material of their own.  Bassist Henry McIver sounds as much a musician as Geddy Lee, and singer Gregor McGregor is a better singer than Mr Lee if you ask me.  I guess that all the 'Mc'-names explains that this is a Scottish band.

The album offers adult progressive /(hard)rock with subtlety and feeling. The lyrics are far from hackneyed but very elaborate and inspired by everyday life. The album offers very strong material but the title track, "Madness", "Let it Go", the calm "The Silence", "Roll the Pin" and the last track "Wasteland" are of the highest quality.

If you like progressive Rush-inspired music, don't miss out on this one.

Mikael Johansson - 'Sweden Rock' - 2001

Album Review  - 'Chasar' (American Phonograph LP)

Brainstorms and heavy duty mechanics! Power, if you like, balls-to-the-wall loudness full of distortion boxes, overloaded pickups and Marshall-stacked subversion. This stuff kicks some serious ass, and between you and me I don't think they really meant it to be this intimidating, wonderful, magnificent, etc...

Chasar are progressive in terms of adventurousness but not in the hippy,hippy shake manner. The hurdy- gurdy sixth form jubilance of the Solstice/Marillion crowd plays no part here. No siree, this is progression on a level with Zeppelin ('Houses of the Holy') and Rush ('Caress of Steel'), the epitome of corrosive power surge but engulfed with the intelligence of perfect song construction.

Plenty of guitar to salivate to, courtesy of the unique Alec Pollock, a man with a weird style, fuzzed but nourishingly freaky during the solos. 'Lights' is the best example: at one point the notes get so fast they condense, turn inside out and bleep strangely out of control only brought back into focus by the advancing chorus. Truly monstrous, 'though his vocals leave much to be desired - kind of like Phil Mogg with a melted chocolate bar in his mouth.

Up back but smartly snappy, is Jim Marshall whose sticks action works a treat throughout. Animated, sprightly, at times almost as efficient as Simon Phillips or Bill Cobham, and wonderfully out of synch, Jim's drums become at times the main instrument. You should hear it.

A pleasing mixture of songs - from straight rockers like 'Gypsy Roller' (Ted Nugent riffhem) through to gothic monsters such as 'Kings' and 'Visions of Time' - make Chasar a band to keep an eye on. The news is that they've brought in a frontman/vocalist since this release so the next vinyl assault could be even wilder.

End of phase one.

Derek Oliver - 'Kerrang!' - 1985

Live Review - Capitol Theatre, Aberdeen.

A three piece, Chasar had a right to be nervous on this the first date of the Pallas UK tour, playing in front of Pallas' home fans, no less.

Minimal on the vocals, wide on the musical horizons, Chasar's material is all about drama! No visual theatrics - are you kidding, this bunch look like they can just about afford the price of a fish supper let alone fork out for costumes and dry ice machines and risers and expensive brain tranquilisers et al - but the musical landscape they explore is full of colour and light.

Influenced by groups like Rush and Pink Floyd, Chasar's numbers are long and intricately arranged. Alex Pollock's guitar dominates everything, really bossing the sound and, heaving the melodies into overdrive.

Very much a band, the three musicians - Jim Marshall on drums, the aforementioned Pollock on guitar/vocals and Pete Marshall on bass - mould and weave together, flirting with the arrangements, the dynamics, the structure and the sound. Opening with 'Destiny' before grooving deftly into 'Deceiver', Chasar spun the wheel forward so fast the numbers zoomed and soared in and around the concert hall.

The songs are long, sure, but potentially, with the right input of sensitive spending and progressive record company marketing, Chasar could, uh, be, well y'know, big (ish). Go and see them with both eyes open.

Mick Wall - 'Kerrang!' - 1983

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