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Italian magister Paul Chain has created, maybe, one of the most indiscriminate legacies to ever exist in the nether regions of underground metal. No one has heard of him, even though he’s released more than fourteen albums under the Paul Chain and Paul Chain Violet Theatre brand. Maybe it’s the lack of label notoriety - I’ve never heard of Minotauro before looking into this guy - or maybe it’s that his mix of doom and psychedelia has both ostracized both doom fans and fans of the more experimental and trippy psychedelic sounds of the seventies. I think, it has something to do with being Italian - one of the most overlooked countries in metal output. Being Italian and releasing a metal album is almost a sure-fire ticket to destruction and failure. Whatever the reason, people are missing out on prime and optimal listening experiences and there should be a concerted effort to raise the awareness of Paul Chain to more than those interested in Death SS.
“In The Darkness” is like watching Rocky Horror Picture Show if it was scored by Claudio Simonetti and Goblin with a perpetually drunk novice version of Alice Cooper on vocals. Obviously, a strange and marginal atmosphere is present here. Creepy is an easy way out of describing it, a word that will pop up continuously however there is something more here: a violence akin to a little girl stabbing dolls with pins while staring in your eyes. A deep seated sadism is present through the album, especially on opener “Welcome To My Hell,” a drifting piece that could be the soundtrack to the bullied kid in the fetal position rocking in the corner. Early Death SS vocalist Sanctis Ghoram contributes these wailing, lost vocals which sometimes get caught in his throat and are delivered as screeches instead of a crooning.
With second track “Meat” we get the first of a series of more doomy songs. Paul Chain has kept the songs compositionally simple. “Meat”, “Crazy”, and “Woman And Knife” all play out structurally like typical compositions with recognizable bridges and verses and choruses. Crazy is definitely single material, simple, some great rock licks, and a definite Ozzy era Sabbath vibe akin to “Paranoid“ with it‘s short quick solo, and catchy yet inconspicuous riffs. Though they remain awkward due to the inclusion of Ghoram’s vocals and certain off-putting details and elements, they allow the album to have what may be deemed as “singles.” “Meat” sounds a bit like the more experimental Sabbath tracks mixed with other doom of the period like Vitus, Pentagram etc. but to blanket label this as “another of those” is foolish.
“War” gets the largest chunk of time of the individual tracks. An odd choice, especially at this period of the album - only three songs in, breaking the momentum with a seven minute long psychedelic / ambient / moody track. It’s got the pulse of a heart-attack victim and the mood of the aftermath of their death. It’s like sitting in a hospital room around the dead body after the doctor told you they’re dead. To say it’s an ugly sad song wouldn’t be truly accurate, it’s got some breathy and cosmic moments mixed with aloe coated keyboard melodies.
“Grey Life” sets the pace for the second half of the album which is much more of a rock and roll styled side than the more psychedelic / experimental A side. It’s got four tracks which all pound home the Paul Chain style into your brain like an LSD trip from hell. It’s a monumentally heavy track with a ton of high pitched feedback revealing a hammer-like main riff. Ghoram adds some mentally wounded vocals atop the riff to the effect of some of Lee Dorian’s vocals in early Cathedral such as some of his more exotic grumbling on Soul Sacrifice. “Mortuary Hearse” easily is my favorite track on this - it’s almost in the style of early speed metal, like Razor slowed down with a hazed out guitar distortion. While it’s structured pretty simply it also contains some more classy guitar moments such as the melodies after the first movement. It purveys a dreadful uneasiness. “Woman and Knife” also end up on the B-side of the album.
The title track ends out the release, starting with a noisy clatter, then trudging through abandoned riffs into vast flowing movements. Thomas “Hand” Chaste, another of Paul Chain’s Death SS buddies, provides one of the most massive kick drum tones in the history of music during the second verse, Ghoram is once again demented, and Claud Galley’s bass dips in and out of rhythmic consciousness throughout, dynamically altering the song so that it’s like being chased by Jack The Ripper and feeling your heart beat rise and fall with every fleeting image of the killer darting in and out of dark and dreary passages. In a sense, that’s how this whole release is, just a dynamic vast maze full of hidden sounds and effects in corners and crevices you simply won’t see the first time you listen.