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Heavy metal in 1985 was still a morphing and always changing landscape, as there were groups thrashing as hard as they could, bands that were taking evil beyond its limits (Bathory and Celtic Frost), and then there were bands like Chastain who wanted to play like their heroes in Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc. A lot of American bands who played in this vein were usually a bit faster and ended up pioneering the USPM subgenre, but Chastain played very much like the forefathers on “Mystery of Illusion,” the band’s debut full-length record. Was this band’s rendition of heavy metal as good as the legends before? No, not really, but this album serves as a terrific foundation of what was to come in this band’s future.
As many would expect, the songs on this album are dominated by midpaced riffs and a lot of melodies, which is made apparent on the first track “Black Knight,” which consists of the aforementioned riffs and a decent melodic intro. The melody that opens “I Fear No Evil” is definitely an ear-catcher and the riffs later on also follow suit. Unfortunately, Chastain wasn’t very consistent and songs like “When the Battle’s Over” and “I’ve Seen Tomorrow” tread along a mediocre path due to derivative riffs and a lack of proper execution that was seen on other memorable tracks like “Mystery of Illusion” and “The Winds of Change.” Another track that just didn’t stick well at all was “Night of the Gods,” a sludgy song that had plenty of St. Vitus and Black Sabbath influence, but this clearly isn’t the style of music that Leather Leone and the crew excel at.
Speaking of Leather Leone, she is one of the highlights on this album with her beautiful voice that possesses an insane range. Her singing on “Endlessly” is soothing and pleasant, but she can also hit the high notes and bring a bit of aggression to her vocals as well (“I Fear No Evil”). Another bright spot on this full-length is the lead guitar work of David T. Chastain. There are of course the aforementioned melodies that show off his skill, but this man can absolutely shred and this is noted in just about every song. His solos are brilliant, there’s a perfect mix of melody and technicality in every one, adding something to remember on even the dullest of songs. “Mystery of Illusion” isn’t the greatest heavy metal album that you’ve never heard, because there are plenty out there that are better, but it’s still a quality listen from a stellar band who would later go on to unlock their real potential with their next release.
“Mystery of Illusion”
“I Fear No Evil”
“The Winds of Change”
Originally written for Nightmare Reality Webzine.
Chastain – Mystery of Illusion
Leather Leone is a kick-ass vocalist that absolutely shits over anything I can do – and that’s a fact. After some initial scepticism when hearing Chastain had a female vocalist, I was put in my place by this album and the follow-up ‘Ruler of the Wasteland’. Chastain is a power/heavy metal band that few have heard of; they write top-notch material with various influences being apparent from point to point. Acquiring two albums of theirs at the same time, I had a hard time when trying to figure out which one was better, but the answer is both of em are great – Mystery of Illusion is a deep and epic feeling metal album with excellently crafted tracks.
‘Fear no Evil’ is a truly epic feeling number with a guitar harmony intro that evokes powerful emotion before ripping into a speed-metal section first verse that’s just exceptional. Leather has strong vocals in this one, with incredibly commanding lyrics and well-held screams – she has a terrific voice with great range. Banshee-like screams that could be compared to Metal Church’s 80’s stuff. Guitar-wizardry is evident here with a whole bunch of showy guitar solos and harmonised efforts that make for fantastic listening. Really a great song while not even necessarily being one of the best of the album. This one proves solid songwriting as there’s a considerable degree of complexity in it with the chorus having somewhat of a catchy effect.
The albums couple of slower numbers include ‘Night of the Gods’ in which you come across sludgy heavy riffage coupled with the banshee-screams of Leather in an evocative slow number that may evoke comparisons with Dio. Lyrical content is dark with references concentrating on Armageddon and the end of the world, wrath of the gods type thing. David Chastain is gain on form in this one with some powerful guitar lead.
‘Black Knight’ marks a solid beginning to the album, with particularly powerful vocals very much in the Metal Church vein coming through, with some Racer X almost being apparent at times, in ambience and guitar. F**k! I cant get over how aggressive Leather’s vocals are in this piece and indeed, the whole album. I like the slow bit in this with a real heavy and rumbling bass. The dark ambience in this section coupled with Leather’s delivery evokes horror-punk band 45 Grave (who are excellent by the way).
‘When the Battle’s Over’ is a power metal number with plenty of ‘punk’ sounding stuff happening on guitar – that is if it wasn’t mixed differently, and combined with harmonic higher pitched ‘metal’ guitar and power-metal imagery. This one’s a punchy hard hitter with interestingly mixed backup vocals that you can hardy hear.
Chastain is a band you don’t really hear of too often, though like other great bands in the same vein (Liege Lord, Vicious Rumors et al) they are relatively unknown, yet f**king phenomenal – particularly on first listen. This is a tough-as-nails release with tonnes of attitude coming from an impressive vocalist, along with great lyrics. There’s plenty of heaviness coming through courtesy of solid drums and good production. Chastain seem to have a very good idea of what they wanted to do – and hence have a solid direction which comes through in this particularly solid album. Really, I cannot recommend this band enough to classic metal fans – they really have a distinctive and fast-paced take on the genre with speed-metallic tinges coming through along with epic imagery and thoroughness of delivery.