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A Game Between Good And Evil

Pure Underground (2014)
Rating: 7/10

Germany’s ChainReAction have had a somewhat chequered past. Having originally formed back in 1996, the Hamburg combo have undergone numerous personnel changes and even changed their name to Variety Law in 2000, before returning to their original moniker in 2005.

But now, following the release of three self-released EPs, and with a current line-up of Conny Bethke (vocals), Scott Boelter (guitar), Christoph Quant (bass) and David Flenner (drums), ChainReAction finally release their full-length debut album, A Game Between Good And Evil.

ChainReAction play a simplistic yet potent brand of traditional heavy metal that has echoes of some of the greatest bands within the genre, such as Scorpions, Saxon, Grave Digger et al. The band is spearheaded by Conny Bethke’s effective, driving powerhouse vocals which give the sound a real edge, but whereas so many revival bands are of a tepid nature, ChainReAction pack quite a punch and are well steered by the sturdy riffage and rumbling percussion.

Opener ‘Have No Fear’ pretty much sets the stall for the whole album; it’s a rich, goth-tinged galloping dose of 80s metal featuring excellent solos and enchanting melodies, but there is also a brooding intensity about these guys which adheres me to them instantly. What is also interesting is that when required the backing vocals inject some meaty, almost deathly sprigs, but not enough to spoil the almost mythical atmosphere of this intriguing opus.

‘Angels Never Die’ is a solid ball of majestic rock which initially simmers with thudding percussion and then a steady chug as Bethke mourns, “Losing someone dear it feels like dying, and I’m crying, drowning in a lake of tears seems to be forever”. The doom-laden edge of the band is distinctive, although Bethke is less fiery on this track; her voice could do with just a little more punch to accompany the crunchier rhythm.

However, ‘Stolen Fire’, the ominous ‘Straight To Hell’ and, my favourite track, ‘Warrior’ are all steely affairs lead by cool melody, ballsy guitar work and a bass which threads its way through the tight framework. Yes, it is no frills metal but the songs are so well written and harbour decent, catchy choruses that there are times you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back to 1987. There are hints of Helloween, Iron Maiden, Running Wild, but above all some classy subtlety too as ‘Dreaming’ wafts on the breeze of night as an icy ballad.

A Game Between Good And Evil has all the qualities of a good, straightforward metal album – the sort of record that puts its balls to the wall, sticks to its guns and is happy to rely on a framework of tight musicianship rather than gimmicks. Again, I’d like to hear a touch more punch in the vocal department, but other than that this is a well-armoured debut offering from a band that should go down well with fans of denim-clad, fist-pumping vintage metal.

Neil Arnold

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