David T. Chastain (Guitars), Russel Jinkens (Vocals), Mike Skimmerhorn (Bass) and Les Sharp (Drums)
CJSS - 2 - 4 - 1 (Lion Music) 1986/1999
|World Gone Mad
1. Hell On Earth (2:50)
2. No-Man's Land (4:58)
3. Communication Breakdown (2:44)
4. World Gone Mad (3:18)
5. Run To Another Day (6:12)
6. The Gates Of Eternity (3:36)
7. Destiny (4:00)
8. Welcome To Damnation (4:08)
9. Purgatory -Living In Exile (5:11)
Praise The Loud
10. Out Of Control (3:06)
11. Land Of The Free (3:08)
12. Don´t Play With Fire (3:26)
13. Praise The Loud (4:04)
14. Citizen Of Hell (5:25)
15. Danger (4:43)
16. Metal Forever (3:01)
17. Thunder And Lightning [instrumental] (4:08)
18. The Bargain (7:16)
Behind this drab looking modern cover lay two classic heavy metal albums from CJSS. "2-4-1" is a compilation containing all of CJSS's "World Gone Mad" and "Praise The Loud". Both were initially released in 1986, less than a year apart. "World Gone Mad" was my introduction to David T. Chastain. During the heyday of heavy metal in the early-to-mid 1980's, Chastain was a busy man, recording with his bands CJSS, Chastain and recording his own solo projects under his full name. Back in '85 I was mostly interested in CJSS due to the fact that this band featured a male vocalist, whereas Chastain featured female vocalist Leather Leone. Oddly enough, Leather is the tougher sounding singer, whereas CJSS' vocalist Russell Jinkens has a high, smooth style.
Of the two albums released within less than a year of each other, most fans seem to prefer "World Gone Mad". For me, it's just a case of nostalgia as "World Gone Mad" was one of those albums I listened to over and over again. The overall sound is heavily influenced by classic Judas Priest, though there is some of that Rainbow/Deep Purple inspired neo-classical influence as well. The album tears open with "Hell on Earth", a song that begins with a drum intro, leading into a double bass assault and a ferocious guitar solo. The song is actually peppered with Chastain's over-the-top guitar fury. "Communication Breakdown" is a Led Zeppelin cover given an 80's metal treatment. Other highlights include "World Gone Mad" with it's quirky "We pledge allegiance, we pledge allegiance, allegiance, allegiance" chorus and "No-Man's Land", which is a catchy, speed-metal number. "Run to Another Day" is the obligatory ballad on the album, and sort of breaks up the chaos a bit. However, the album picks up again with another speed-metal rocker titled "The Gates of Eternity". "Welcome To Damnation" is a slower, plodding song that has a vibe not unlike Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell". The album closes with the outstanding "Purgatory/Living in Exile", a song that features a cool intro and even guitar fireworks from David.
"Praise the Loud" has the distinction of having one of those classic, cheesy 80's metal titles and album covers. Yes, cheesy by modern standards, but it's also classic in that it's just part of metal history. The album has a very similar vibe to the first album, featuring the soaring vocals of Jinkins and the guitar wizardry of Chastain. Similar to the debut the album opens with a drum intro before the guitar rips a hole through your speakers. "Land of the Free" unleashes more manic guitar solos. "Don't Play With Fire" is pure speed metal, pushing the boundaries of thrash metal. The title track is speedy heavy metal anthem. The album's standout track, however, is "Metal Forever" another fast and furious heavy metal anthem which became one of CJSS's calling cards. This song apparently became the theme song for the syndicated radio station Z-Rock, an all hard rock and heavy metal radio station. "Thunder and Lightning" is an instrumental.
Despite the fact that CJSS never reached worldwide acclaim, both these albums are classics to those in the know. Unfortunately the packaging of this re-issue is a bit cheap. The four panel insert does include small photos of the original album art, as well as a couple small photos and a short bio, but it all seems sort of crammed. I would have loved to have seen the original cover art for each of the two releases been printed on the front and back cover so that either could be displayed in the CD case. As it stands, I'm still thankful to have these two classics in digital format even is the packaging isn't outstanding.
CJSS - Kings of the World (Pavement Music) 2000
1. Kings of the World (4:31)
2. The Final Frontier (4:20)
3. The Executioner's Song (4:11)
4. Wild in the Streets (5:12)
5. Thief of Hearts (4:37)
6. I 4 I (3:30)
7. The Fall of Babylon (4:40)
8. All is Fire (3:53)
9. Locomotive Breath (5:04)
10. The End of the Rainbow [instrumental] (4:08)
11. Cries of the Dawn (5:06)
Despite only having released two album, both in 1986, CJSS stayed together and performed together right up until 1992, selling out clubs in their hometown of Cincinnati. From what I know, the band never really officially split up, but just stopped doing live shows and didn't record anything new until 1999 when they got together to do a few local gigs. The band reunited Russel Jinkens (Vocals), David T. Chastain (Guitars), Mike Skimmerhorn (Bass) and drummer Les Sharp for the first time in over a decade. The shows went so well the band decided to record a new album and "Kings of the World" was unleashed. I would assume that during all those years the band were together and performing live, they had a wealth of unrecorded songs to choose from when they finally decided to record something. As such, "Kings of the World" is a stellar, classic heavy metal release. I've read a handful of reviews across the internet over the years. Many criticize the album as being "recycled 80's heavy metal". Well, where do these people think CJSS came from? They weren't attempting to reinvent the wheel. In fact, "Kings of the World" does sound as if it could have been the better produced follow-up to the cult classic "Praise the Loud".
The title track is classic CJSS, and the perfect galloping heavy metal romp to open up the album. "The Executioner's Song" is a slower tempo song that is much darker than the more up-tempo opening tracks. "Locomotive Breath" is a Jethro Tull cover, one that is most definitely not played to sound like the original. Frankly, if a band is going to play a cover I'd rather they put their own spin on the song and that is exactly what CJSS have done here. "Wild in the Streets" give David a chance to stretch out a bit and show off some of his guitar prowess. "Thief of Hearts" has a bit of a Deep Purple vibe to it and is dark, mid-tempo song. "The End of the Rainbow" is an upbeat instrumental that gives each musician a chance to showcase their skill, though suprisingly the song is not a wankfest. Rather it's more of an instrumental in the tradition of Def Leppard's "Switch 625" or Maiden's "Genghis Khan".
As usual, David T. Chastain is an absolute shredder. His lead work is spread throughout the album. He is often compared to the well known wanksters of the world, and while I would agree that he is on their level of skill, I think Chastain uses his axe grinding skills tastefully with CJSS. The songs on "Kings of the World" are not just a showcase for David's guitar talents. For that sort of thing, guys like Yngwie are more befitting. CJSS write hooky, riff driven, songs. It's not David T.Chastain, plus three other guys. CJSS sound like a band with chemistry that have been duking it out for years. It definitely does not sound like a band that hadn't recorded anything for over fourteen years.