Let’s blow shit up right away by stating first and simply that former Metal Maniacs writer and Chicago-based song factory, Chris Black is a fucking genius. No single person in the last five years has done more—producing, writing and playing—with as little and produced as many hits still waiting to be discovered.
Chris Black isn’t really a “singer,” not the type you naturally expect in a Heavy Metal band anyway, but he has one of the clearest, charismatic and most recognizable voices of any singer today. As a musician he seems not particularly gifted from any technical standpoint, yet his music, maddeningly addictive, has so far refused to weaken after each time listening.
Turn to the other groups he’s founded, from SUPERCHRIST to DAWNBRINGER and even with their clearly defined differences, his mark is unmistakable. Perhaps the only thing separating the man from the genre’s pack of established songwriters is a lack of interest in touring. For Black, Metal remains mostly a private experience (which ironically places him nearer to bands like DARKTHRONE on the spectrum). None of that should cast Black’s music as any more hermetic than the global average, but word does travel pretty slow even when you’re in the van. I guess that’s partly why he just keeps writing more great music, but I’m also starting to think simply “good enough” just ain’t in this son of a bitch’s D.N.A. Definitely makes no appearance on High Spirits’ high-energy sophomore record, maybe the richest concept album ever conceived based simply on following one guy (Black) around town as he deals with his shit and what to do next, packed non-stop with hooks and melodies to keep you banging from heartache to headache, midnight to daybreak. Won’t find anyone else with the honesty and style to write something like: “Do you remember when we said goodbye / It wasn’t just our eyes / that cried together / I’m gonna wait right here and dream of you / And that’ll have to do / Maybe forever,” which would probably win a Grammy if sung by some Swedish broad to a dance beat, but still rocks as hard and true. And so it goes across the board, a sound bred on the best THIN LIZZY and DIAMOND HEAD singles mixed with a little bit of a Punk (The nearest comparison being Dee Dee Ramone but it always sounded to me like Black must also be a big BAD RELIGION fan) turning out proper cuts like “You Make Love Impossible,” “Demons at The Door,” and “Going Up,” continually backed by a bad ass rhythm set which eventually bangs out the most beautiful goddamn interplay of bass and guitar you’ve heard since Heaven and Hell on “Nights in Black.” Then consider that the only person playing the instruments here is Black, alone.
Scanning the Chi-town skyline overlaid with lyrics throughout the record’s pages you know these songs are happening out there right now behind the towers and shining lights, between the concrete, hidden under bed sheets, on barstools and backstreets in the night, every night. As this down and out frustration breaks into a new day, Black questions the cycle that binds him: “Now in the distance / I can see a light / Watch it rise up into the sky / And I swear I’ll chase it / Chase it every night / As the years keep on running by.”
Some quality music was always expected, just how much was the question and High Spirits delivers on every song. But the biggest surprise here is that, despite what’s written above, the vocals—thanks to either Sanford Parker, lozenges, or younger pussy—sound absolutely GOLDEN and soulful throughout the entire album. Another Night is Chris Black’s Thriller. I’m still not sure if that makes him more Michael or Quincy Jones, but fuck it, feels right to add and I’m not taking it back. [TD]
Review from Chips & Beer Mag #2 [Sold Out]