The story of Chain is not your average "formed-a-band-recorded-an-album" story. Chain was formed in 1994 by beyboardist Stephan Kernbach. Drummer Thorsten Hannig and bassist Christian Becker were 15 years old back then and naturally you would assume they wouldn't be ready to play progressive rock, but these kids could play. Henning Pauly was the fourth member, on guitar. The band rehearsed for a year and wrote a lot of material, but could never find a vocalist, so they split up. The only proof of their existence was a tape recorded during a rehearsal. Years passed and Henning moved to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music where he studied arranging and music synthesis, writing big band music, pop, rock, ambient etc. After his studies he moved to Los Angeles and started producing a variety of artists. One day he found the Chain tape and listened he couldn't believe that after all these years he knew every single note and that the themes really worked, so he decided to produce an album that should have been produced 8 years earlier. He spent most of 2002 working on "RECONSTRUCT". In December he found the missing link in the chain, Matt Cash, an amazing vocalist who adds a flavour to the music which is somewhat unusual for progressive rock. Henning discovered after years of writing and arranging that he forgot where his true passion lies: progressive rock - heavy guitars, driving rhythms, complex arrangements, great vocal harmonies, epic story.
A band that died a year after it was formed lives again. They are back and they can't be stopped. 2 days after they got signed to progrockrecords.com they were back in the studio working on a new album which is planned to come out later this year under the title "chain.exe" ! Their sound is somewhere between progrock and progressive metal with a strong emphasis on themes and vocal lines. RECONSTRUCT is a concept album spanning the complete history of evolutionary time. It contains 10 songs (2 of which are instrumentals) weaved together by seven "Earthscapes", connecting pieces which sometimes sound more like ambient music or a filmscore.
RECONSTRUCT is a concept album spanning the complete history of evolutionary time. It contains 10 songs (2 of which are instrumentals) weaved together by seven "Earthscapes", connecting pieces which sometimes sound more like ambient music or a filmscore. Henning Pauly of Chain is also responsible for the groundbreaking album Frameshift with James LaBrie of Dream Theater.
I'm generally not too enthusiastic about progmetal, but the instrumental "Before There Was" (5:00) with it's fantastic and intriguing interplay between piano, guitar (heavy riffs and subtle chords) and orchestra really kicks ass! This is the second track after the ambient opening track "Earthscape I" (1:15). Parts II up to VII with this same title are a series of "narration breaks" with a diversity of voices (male, female, opera-like, distorted) and sounds (heavy guitar and keyboards riffs, violin, ambient noises).
With "First Life" (4:38) things tend to become more basic metal, but happily some good keyboard solos make this piece also digestible for me. "Before There Was" (5:00) with it's complex rhythm and nice piano play and ''Impact'' (5:38) with a good guitar solo and church organ accompaniment are again at the same high level as Before There Was . The vocals are acceptable but now and then sound as may expect with this type of music. ''Imcommunicado, Prisoner of Silence'' (6:37) starts with guitar chords and a synth melody, than the sound becomes more or less gothic (orchestra with heavy guitar) and it develops into a heavy rock song.
Track 8. "Missing Link" (4:53) is a restful piece with acoustic guitar, flute and a nice orchestral accompaniment. "The Planet IS Fine" (6:04) is also more subdued. High level keyboard play are strong features of "The Augmented Animal (7:13, piano intro and synthesizer solos) and the up-tempo "Conspiracy" (6:18, clavinet intro, soaring organ battling with speedy guitar). The vocal harmonies in the former are quite surprising. Towards the end of the album things tend to become a little less interesting, although the speedy keyboard parts in the varied piece ''Signs'' (6:25) still holds my attention. "Earthscape VII" (4:47) is the official last track of the album, but after a few minutes of silence a humoristic bonus (track 42!) shows to be the final piece.
As already mentioned I am not to keen on progmetal, but this album of Chain is a pleasant exception to the rule that heavy guitar riffs dominate this type of music. Compositions and arrangements are on the one hand, especially for this genre, very refreshing, well-considered and certainly progressive. The sound of Chain offers a pleasant balance between (of course) heavy riffs, speedy solos and melodious, more delicate parts. Especially the keyboard play of Stephan Kernbach attracts me very much. This should certainly appeal to all devotees of progressive rock. --Progvisions
Coming right out of the concept of the Evolutionist Theory, explaining the whole cycle of life from the origins all the way to the cycle s demise, Chain has created a record that stands out among many concept albums, but that is not where the albums creativity ends, the music is what I see as the center of this record.
Mixing elements of conceptual opuses, improvisational jamming, symphonic overtones, heavy metal riff structure, as well as sub ambient atmospheric timbre structure providing the tone for Reconstruct, Chain brings forth an aggressive album filled with diversity that lacks redundancy that plagues many acts today, making every cut on this record stand out alone.
For openers, Reconstruct has it s moments for discrete production where the mix of heavy guitars, Hammond organs, keyboard strings (done very well, almost sounding real) sounding as if there was really an orchestra in a symphony hall, busy Zonder/Portnoy style drumming, as well as analog synths used among the radio noises and vocoders to compliments the records atmosphere.
Reconstruct starts out with two instrumental cuts Earthscape and the jam session Before There Was, pre-cursing the elaborate musicianship showcased on this record. The Earthscape cuts are more or less interludes (some are completely avant-garde), creating transition between the songs, but Before There Was, is more of an overture to the record, which seems to be written the same way many overtures to movies/musicals are. For the points when the record has it s moments in the normal song vein; cuts like the Kansas-esque First Life, mixing the Hammond organ with the strings being brought forward with the thick guitars pulled back to compliment the rhythmic stance of this cut; Impact sounding like a more symphonic version of an early Queensryche cut (guitars brought up front in the mix), the Rhapsody style jam session of What There Will Be, and Conspiracy which sounds like a modern Marillion cut, keep the record on the upbeat pace.
There are slower paced cuts like The Planet is Fine, which starts out as a piano ballad that eventually leads to an emotional Dream Theater related cut, not to mention the dark Signs which sounds like a Misplaced Childhood-era Marillion cut with a little more guitars.
Earthscape in general showcases production, musicianship, as well as putting together the whole concept that Chain has put together. The record is generally bright sounding in mood and tone, the sound effects of the Earthscape cuts are executed to enhance the record sonic quality, not to mention that the overall sound is not dense, which is surprising due to the fact that so many layers of instruments were used here, making the engineering skills notable on this record. Since I am on the subject of the instrumentation, I will add that the arrangements cause the instruments to compliment each other without creating a muddy-layered mess, being discrete among the guitar and keyboard solos. Very well done overall, highly enjoyable for Marillion, Dream Theater, Rhapsody, and Threshold fans, and well worth checking out. --Prog4You
Masterminded by Berklee based jingle writer Henning Pauly, Chain's Reconstruct is an ambitious disc dealing with some of the most fundamental existential and anthropological questions. Who are we , where do we come from, and where are we heading. The topic is addressed on this disc in a very intelligent and coherent manner.
This 17-track concept record avoids many of the pitfalls which often befall hard progressive outfits. A balanced blend of harder numbers and ballads are offered up, interspersed by a 7-part track called "Earthscape" which acts as narration as we journey across eons. Musically, the band is solid in all positions with notable standouts Mr. Henning Pauly on guitars and Mr. Stephan Kernbach on keyboards. The vocals are handled by Mr. Matt Cash who, although no singing virtuoso, does manage to not reach beyond his range.
A few steps ahead of most of their hard progressive counterparts, Chain have released a fine example of how aggressive progressive and science-fiction themes should be meshed together. No childish fantasy themes or useless pyrotechnics here, Reconstruct is simply one the finest new hard progressive discs I have heard in the last little while. Recommended. --Sea of Tranquility