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Chest Rockwell - Total Victory CD (album) cover


Chest Rockwell



3.52 | 10 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Like a lot of 'modern' progressive rock, Chest Rockwell are a band that is bound to divide listeners' opinions. Their music is of the kind that devotees of 'traditional' prog may very well hate, or simply consider 'not prog enough'. However, it also contains enough distinctive features to attract the attention of the more open-minded fans of the genre.

If I had to compare Chest Rockwell to one of the iconic bands of prog, I would definitely choose Rush. Though purists may scoff at the Canadian trio for having 'abandoned' the ways of true prog from the early Eighties onwards, they have undeniably never shied away from experimenting with vastly different genres, such as reggae or new wave - a simple fact that would make them forerunners of 'modern' prog's omnivorous nature.

At a first listen, the biggest source of inspiration on "Total Victory" would seem to be the diverse, hard-to-pinpoint 'alternative/indie' galaxy. Josh Hines' vocal style is indeed closer to alternative or grunge than to classic prog; in my view, it is also one of the album's weaker points. In fact, after listening to the two initial songs, I judged Chest Rockwell to be another good, yet somewhat overhyped outfit purported to be the 'next big thing' in the fundamentally conservative world of progressive rock. The strongly riff-based "Being An Able Man, There Are Always" can bring to mind grunge, or even the early work of U2, especially in the chugging guitar sound; while in "2 Pumps Away" the Rush comparisons start rearing their head, with the bass pushed at the forefront, shifting from a harsh and relentless sound when underpinning a gritty guitar solo, to a booming, meaty one during the song's catchy chorus.

However, with the third track things start getting really interesting for the true-blue prog fan. Shades of Pink Floyd circa "The Wall" or "The Final Cut", or even Roger Waters' solo output, lurk in the instrumental "Within 10 Paces I Cannot Fail", made up for the most part of snippets of recorded political speeches overlaid by odd electronic noises and melancholy acoustic guitar chords. The three parts of "Body Prop" bring the listener squarely into prog territory, and not just because of its structure. With plenty of odd time signatures, stellar drum and bass work, guitars in turn emotional and gritty, and occasional keyboard touches, it could be successfully compared to Rush's underrated Nineties output. The intense, guitar-driven ending to Part 1 also hints at a more controlled, less manic version of The Mars Volta; while Parts 2 and 3 take a more moody, atmospheric direction, especially Part 3 with its faint but pervasive sounds of water. Hines' vocal performance is quite powerful throughout, definitely his most convincing on the album.

"Total Victory" ends with a bang, as the last three tracks steer the sound towards metal territory. The spectacular instrumental "11 Is the New 7" is driven along by a pumping bass line and guitar licks straddling the line between melody and edginess; besides the obvious Rush comparisons, something here points to a tighter, less self-indulgent version of Dream Theater. The brisk, Iron Maiden-flavoured cavalcade of "Colossus", on the other hand, would have worked better as an instrumental on account of the somewhat lacklustre vocals. Album closer "Mortal Universe" (the longest item on the album) begins in muted fashion before developing into a heavy riff-fest with a military-sounding guitar line, pounding drums and the omnipresent, pneumatic bass cementing the song structure.

Judging by this album, Chest Rockwell undoubtedly have a bright future ahead of them. Their tight musicianship and songwriting skills should be enough to capture the attention of those prog fans who do not always expect new music to sound like a faithful rendition of Seventies-style standard fare. A solid 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for sheer interest value.

Raff | 4/5 |


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