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CHASTAIN Mystery Of Illusion (Reissue)

By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Wednesday, November 25, 2020 @ 7:02 AM

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Mystery Of Illusion (Reissue)

Divebomb Records - 2020

As much as it pains me to admit this, I had never heard the CHASTAIN album Mystery Of Illusion album before now. Despite my long standing admiration for the band, I didn't actually discover the band until a few years after this first album had been out on the market. In the decades since, I've never seen this album in person and the only copies I've seen for sale online cost more than a pretty penny.

But thanks to the reissue program from Divebomb Records, you can now add this classic album to your collection. Released to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the album, the package includes not only the original album but two bonus demo tracks (for the songs "Mystery of Illusion" and "The Winds Of Change"), a booklet with reprinted press clippings and a brand new interview with guitarist David T. Chastain and singer Leather Leone that features some interesting tidbits surrounding the creation of the band and the album.

This may have been the first time I would hear the albumbeing the first time for me to hear the album but Mystery Of Illusion really struck me with just how powerful the album is. This may be the first CHASTAIN album but there's a remarkable sense of self-assurance to the performances and the material.

While Chastain's soloing is uniformly excellent, it's when he's playing along with drummer Fred Coury and bassist Mike Skimmerhorn that the music is elevated into something entirely special. As an aside, I'm always amazed to remember that Coury played with the band before his time in CINDERELLA. And what can I say about Leather Leone? I'm a huge fan and getting to hear her first set of performances is just a thrill.

The album kicks off with "Black Knight", a song that fades in slowly before the track's overall fast moving soundtrack leads into a kind of medieval storyline. There's some wildly entertaining soloing on "When The Battle's Over" but the song really shines during the main passages and there's a great chorus too.

While those first two tracks are infused with an intense pacing, it's not all fiery metal licks here. Instead, the album ebbs and flows with different song styles and pacing. The album's title track would still be properly described as "uptempo" but there's a little bit more of restraint in the musical performance. There is something about the feel of the music combining with the way Leather delivers the lyrics that really appealed to me. The same could be said for the album closing "The Winds Of Change".

The song "Endlessly" is the CHASTAIN version of a ballad but it is far more involving that most songs of it's genre and while most ballads might be easily dismissed, this one sure isn't. Not only is it a pretty good song in and of itself, but I love the fact that it shows a different side to Leather's singing. We all know how powerful her voice can be as it soars over the songs she sings. There is no mistaking that ripping metallic tone of her vocals. But on "Endlessly", she starts off the track singing in a much cleaner vocal tone. It's not what you might expect but since I've heard mention of her cleaner style I've always wanted to hear an example of it. The song also has a great solo as the pacing picks up into more of rock vibe midway through the song.

In the press release for the album, the song "Night Of The Gods" is described as being similar to what a BLACK SABBATH track might sound like. It's a pretty accurate description with the song featuring a much more methodical progression. This gives the song a much heavier tone which brings those SABBATH comparisons to bear. Of course, the guitar solo in the song was much more of a kinetic explosion as David T. Chastain captures yet another moment of lightning in a bottle.

Unsurprisingly, CHASTAIN tends to really shines when they are just buffeting the listener with one metallic riff after another. The sonic shockwave that hits you on "I've Seen Tomorrow" never lets up with its super fast and supercharged tempo.

One of the album's best tracks is "I Fear No Evil". The song kicks off with a guitar intro that reminds you of one of those overtures you hear before a classic movie starts playing. As that intro subsides a bit, the endless riffing of the song's main section showcases quite the shredding experience for the band as a whole. The go-for-broke vocal take from Leather Leone on the song's top-notch lyrical content helps to further fuel and enhance the song. It is a great example of just why I'm such a fan of her singing.

Trying to sum up my thoughts on this album isn't easy. I'm coming to Mystery Of Illusion thirty-five years after it was first released which is obviously incredibly late to the party for me. But whether back in the day or just today, I know this much to be true...CHASTAIN got it right the first time out and gave fans a truly classic metal album!

4.7 Out Of 5.0

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