Chain Collector
The Masquerade



by Dave de Sylvia EMERITUS
September 22nd, 2006 | 8 replies

Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

What, exactly, qualifies a supergroup? I ask only because I’ve heard the term bandied around Chain Collector quite a bit recently, posing the question: can a project consisting of the less celebrated members of some of Norway’s mid-range black metal outfits really be considered a “supergroup”? Mind you, I don’t doubt their pedigree- Green Carnation, Carpathian Forest and …In The Woods are no slouches- but it seems like a term more aptly applied to a Velvet Revolver or a (gulp) Audioslave.

Chain Collector came about at the insistence of guitarist Gøran Bomann, known for his recent stints with cult black metal heros Carpathian Forest (where he’s nicknamed Blood Perverter) and Trail of Tears (as an unofficial member) as well as gigs with Neon God and Apostasy. He dreamt up Chain Collector as an outlet for his own creative aspirations, which lay some way away from the progressive black metal of his other projects.

As neither Gøran nor the other members consider themselves particularly gifted lyrically, two lyricists were employed in the making of this album: Mie Storbekken Lindstad wrote the lyrics to the four tracks found on 2004’s immaculately-titled Forthcoming Addiction, while Johan Leonard was given the task of writing the remaining tracks’ lyrics, with loose instructions to evoke the feelings of a murderer or serial killer when committing their crimes. Leonard came through with a series of lyrics that also skirted the issue of religion (and anti-religion) as well as a running ‘master race’ theme. Mie seems to be the more skilled of the two, contributing the ‘masquerade’ theme, deriving from the track ‘Wicked Mask.’

To the cause he recruited singer Kjetil Nordhus from Trail of Tears, growler Svenn Aksel Hendricksson from Apostasy, lead guitarist Kjell Jacobsen from Neon God and drummer Anders Kobro from just about every band mentioned thusfar- unsurprising, considering how damn good he is. Gøran, though a black metal guitarist at heart, consciously wrote The Masquerade in tribute to the Swedish style- hard, fast but melodic death metal with definable groove. It’s a true departure not just for Gøran but for the other members as well, and is thus in the spirit of the classic supergroup * la Blind Faith, but that’s not all there is to it.

The Masquerade is, at its root, quite a contradictory album, an understandable but very avoidable side-effect of the composer’s ill-experience with the genre. The music, composed entirely by Gøran, lies most comfortably in the same camp as bands like In Flames and Soilwork, though less self-consciously (some would say shamelessly) ‘poppy’ as either. While the majority of the tracks employ traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus motifs, Gøran’s black metal tendencies emerge regularly in the more progressive aspects of the record.

Sometimes this juxtaposition works wonderfully; ‘Crucifixion’ invites comparison to Opeth (as all acoustic-based death metal for years to come will inevitably be compared to Opeth), employing the soft-to-brutal dynamic expertly and giving Kjetil’s vocals the prominence they need to flourish. However, elsewhere his voice is simply mixed down to the point where almost all ornamentation is lost beneath the swell of distorted guitars and lingering synths.

The fundamental difference between progressive music and (for the sake of brevity) ‘pop’ music is that while progressive music defines itself by the constant forwarding and augmentation of specific themes or ideas (not to mention mimicking Pink Floyd whenever allowable), pop music requires the recycling and reuse of those same themes: the hook. The Masquerade has lots of hooks; in fact, it’s a wonder they didn’t work a hook into the cover portrait (a staff will have to do), but perhaps they used all their hooks up during the recording process.

Chain Collector do understand the importance of hooks, which a lot of other bands miss, but where Chain Collector let themselves down is the balancing act between the hook and forward-thinking music. First of all, the production simply isn’t good enough: for an album that’s clearly so strong vocally, it’s a crime that Kjetil’s vocals are not given pride of place in the mix- they needn’t be mixed to overwhelm like In Flames (in fact that’s advisable), but it’s certainly a missed opportunity in this case. Second of all, structural limitations are apparent in ‘And Then There Was None’ and ‘Fallen Angel,’ where an attempt is made to apply progressive ideals to standard pop structure, and the result is that the hook is lost and when it does return it’s unfamiliar, giving the listener the sense that they’ve gone nowehere in the intervening minutes.

Criticisms aside, however, The Masquerade is for the most part a brilliant achievement: a modern thrash or melodic death metal album that demonstrates the capability to combine the best aspects of different genres (fast and heavy riffs with breakdowns, clean and growled vocals, oftentimes in unison) with a consistent degree of quality that eludes more popular artists like Trivium and In Flames. The riffs are hot and plentiful- Zakk Wylde and Dimebag Darrell loom large over the early tracks, while Jerry Cantrell and Dave Gilmour’s influence is apparent in the Kjell Jacobsen’s soloing.

When Kjetil is given the opportunity to show what he can do, he grasps it with both hands (hooks, even), excelling particularly on ‘Crucifixion’ and ‘Tapping the Vein,’ on which he (perhaps intentionally) recalls Gilmour-era Pink Floyd as he sings in harmony with himself. His interplay with counterpart Svenn is frequently just as good; Svenn growls with the front of his throat, maintaining a high, breathless quality throughout the album. The pair work particularly well together on the track ‘Neverwhere,’ Svenn delivering the central topic ‘redemption is my name’ with a sinister air Kjetil is wont to create.

The Masquerade is on the whole a triumph- an example of a creative musician stepping outside of his comfort zone and, despite a few mistakes along the way, delivering more than expected. The musicianship is exemplary; while no more technically demanding than it needs to be, the guitarists work well together, Anders Kobros skilfully avoids the trap that many drummers fall into, deeming neverending blast beats to be essential to creating intense music, and the two vocalists are a great duo despite the undervaluing of the melodic vocals.

The Masquerade is available now through Sound Riot Records.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
September 23rd 2006


This sounds intresting.

September 23rd 2006


wow i really like this review. you described the albums contents really nicely. and a big 'ol listening party to boot. not my thing, but i can see its appeal for those who enjoy this stuff.

in other news i can't sign in under my primary again. i don't know what the hell is going on? i'll keep trying...

September 23rd 2006


I can't believe you like this.

Bribed? :pThis Message Edited On 09.23.06

September 23rd 2006


I'm pretty unfamiliar with this band, but from what I heard from the samples above they seem pretty good.

Excellent review as always.

September 24th 2006


Wow, I thought the same thing as Jom at first, but this really looks great. I'm checking it out...now!

September 25th 2006


This review is freakin' amazing. Fantastic job Spat Out Plath.

Recommended tracks from these guys?

December 12th 2006


I really like this album and enjoyed reading this review. I think the opening track is astounding!

February 21st 2012


This is a pretty sweet album.

Great review.

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