Chrome Division
3rd Round Knockout

There’s just something about black metal guys getting together to jam on some old-fashioned hard rock that works. By all rights it shouldn’t, since the accessible melodies and memorable hooks that go along with the style of music are pretty much the exact opposite of what black metal bands normally do. But every time I hear one of these projects, it seems to be pretty good.

Chrome Division is the brainchild of Dimmu Borgir vocalist Shagrath, who plays guitar for the band and only does backing vocals. I remember enjoying their 2006 debut record Doomsday Rock ‘n’ Roll, which, as I recall had much more of a Motorhead feel. I apparently missed their second record in 2008, and now have in my hands their third outing, 3rd Round Knockout. This record seems to have more variety than the first record, drawing more on blues, punk and 1980s influences. Original vocalist Eddie Guz is out, making way for a guy named Shady Blue, also known as Athera in Susperia. His vocals are just a little bit rougher around the edges than Guz’s, but also seem to fit the music well.

The record opens with the first single, “Bulldogs Unleashed,” a high-energy thrasher with just a little bit of Metallica in the verse. It’s not a bad song, but to me is one of the weaker on the record. There are some interesting bits, though, like a dark, slower interlude with lyrics about stealing someone’s woman that just don’t seem to go together, but somehow work.

They settle into rock ‘n’ roll territory on the second track, “7 G-Strings,” which has a great sleazy rock groove. Like much of the record, the song is lyrically challenged. They often wallow in the excesses of 1980s rock, and if you’re going to sing songs about sex, I’ve always preferred clever wordplay and double entendre to straight-up sleaze. It’s not enough to ruin my enjoyment of the track musically, though. “Join the Ride” heads even further into 1980s rock territory as a very commercially accessible hard rock drinking song with a sing-along chorus. “Unholy Roller” is a raucous blues rock-influenced number, and “Zombies and Monsters” is a great classic metal tune with an undeniably catchy chorus. “Satisfy My Soul” has a Van Halen feel on the main riff, but otherwise is pure 1980s cock rock.

Though most everything on 3rd Round Knockout is great, there are a few truly standout moments. The first is “The Magic Man,” which opens as an early ZZ Top-flavored blues rock romp complete with harmonicas then morphs into a modern-era Corrosion of Conformity groover. There’s a little Aerosmith swing here and there in the song, too.

But the absolute best performance on the record is a cover of the classic country song “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” which has been recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby to Johnny Cash to Impaled Nazarene. The main melody of the song just translates perfectly into a distorted electric guitar lick, before the band launches into a punk-thrash rendition that just flat out kicks ass. There’s a slow, grooving dramatic breakdown for the “Yippie-yay-yo, yippie-yay-aye” part before the chorus, and after the first two verses, there’s a galloping Iron Maiden-style riff with the main theme repeated in a power-metal style “oh-oh-oooh” chant. The idea of it is almost absurd, but I can’t stop listening to it and loving the song. It all comes together, and it’s great fun.

The same could be said of the entire record. Unusual influences abound, right down to a snippet of an obscure X-rated David Allan Coe song that plays in the intro to “Long Distance Call Girl.” I’m not sure how the hardcore black metal fans will take it, but I absolutely love it. It’s much more free and loose than Doomsday Rock ‘n’ Roll, it’s got a great good-time vibe, and the grooves and hooks just put a big grin on my face.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
May 26th, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: Maelstrom

    Great review and great album.. Doesnt quite hold up to Booze, Broads, Beelzebub in my opinion but is fantastic none the less..
    You should def check out the 2nd album Fred :)


  2. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    The fact that Athera is on this album makes it mildly interesting, but still nothing too special.


  3. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Just like BP, Athera makes me want to check this out. Didn’t like the other guy very much.


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