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.
Craig Hughes - '100axes' website,
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
'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.
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
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'
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
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'
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'
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
Mick Wall - 'Kerrang!' - 1983