F U L L . R E V I E W S
Ruler Of The Wasteland
Company: Shrapnel Records
Reviewer: Eric Compton
Sure, I'll be the first to admit that the 80s has a multitude of fine guitarists. Popular axeslingers like Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen, and Michael Schenker seem to have taken most of the glorious spotlight, with very little attention paid to the underground players. David Chastain unfortunately is one of those underground superstars, and in 1986, David's "other" band released a metallic masterpiece in "Ruler Of The Wasteland", quite possibly one of the finest metal moments ever.
A masterpiece of classic, traditional 80s metal
Ohio native Chastain cut his teeth in the early 80s with a hard rocking group called Spike. The group recorded both a demo and a full length album. Chastain drove for a more furious metal approach, one that wouldn't compromise his loyalty to metal tradition. Deeply rooted in the finer art of Sabbath, Maiden, and Priest, David felt that Spike was too commercial for his songwriting and guitar techniques.
In 1984, David formed his own band, the much heavier CJSS, which featured ex-Spike members Mike Skimmerhorn, Les Sharp, and Russell Jinkens. While the CJSS project was coming together for David, Shrapnel Records, known at the time as the predominant "shredding" label, approached Chastain about doing a solo project, simply called Chastain.
Enlisting the services of ex-Rude Girl vocalist Leather Leone, drummer Fred Coury, and fellow CJSS bassist Mike Skimmerhorn, Chastain released "Mystery Of Illusion" in early '85. The Chastain debut was poorly produced, but the production values didn't stand in the way of a good, solid first record. With great songwriting, powerful vocals, and the star-studded antics of one David Chastain, the album proved that Chastain could stand on its own with David's main project, CJSS.
After releasing the CJSS debut record, "World Gone Mad", in 1986, David went back to the studio for a second Chastain album, "Ruler Of The Wasteland", quite possibly the guitarist's finest moment, and a must have for anyone who claims to like classic metal.
Courtesty of a polished, fresh production job by Mike Varney and Stephen Fontano, "Ruler Of The Wasteland" is heightened by a stellar songwriting venture on the part of Chastain, who also had a hand in the production and recording of the record. Mired deeply in the traditional trenches of galloping metal soldiers like Riot, Maiden, and Priest, Chastain breathes new life into the New Wave formula, concentrating on big leads and catchy hooks minus the twin guitar melody.
Tracks like "Ruler Of The Wasteland", with its fast-churning metal velocity could in fact be a pre-cursor to the sounds made evident by Judas Priest with "Painkiller" three years later. Blazing drum speed from Ken Mary (Alice Cooper, Fifth Angel, TKO) crossed with the rapid-fire assault of Chastain's Kramers and Les Pauls makes for a breathtaking, awe-inspiring look at mid 80s perfection. Chastain chooses to play all styles of metal here, from the roaring New Wave sound to the axepert's metal visions of that day and age, mosty the metallica shredding styles of Malmsteen and Byrd.
With cuts like "The King Has The Power" and "Children Of Eden", the group embark on a style of play made famous by Priest on their "Hell Bent For Leather" record. Both tracks exhibit a big, fat guitar sound with high end drums, conjuring up Priest classics like "Burnin' Up" and "Delivering The Goods", both of which display that great combo of macho-muscle. And speaking of macho, did I mention that "Ruler Of The Wasteland" features female vocals??
Leather Leone is the PERFECT heavy metal vocalist on this album, determined to steal the show with her angelic vocal performance, of which she can turn it up to light speed, or soothe the listener with her angelic take on "Angel Of Mercy". Hearing her blazing high vocals on tracks like "There Will Be Justice" and "One Day To Live" is very stirring to my soul, reminding me of the classic metal singers...Halford, Dickinson, Dio, etc.
In my opinion, Chastain never quite caught on the way they should have. After the release of this album, David went back to the CJSS camp and released "Praise The Loud" in late '86. Chastain may have tried to fit too much into one year, with '86 seeing three David Chastain related releases (both CJSS albums and the sophomore record from Chastain). Maybe it wasn't enough breathing room for the casual listener, who may have gotten confused over so many projects featuring David. Regardless, the Chastain machine kept rolling, releasing three more albums with Leather on vocals, before firing back up in the 90s with new vocalist Kate French in a more modern approach at classic metal.
Of the seven Chastain releases, "Ruler Of The Wasteland" is by far the best album from this Cincinatti shredding machine. It has all the main ingredients needed to make a great metal record-- superb vocals, excellent songwriting, catchy hooks. This is simply a masterpiece of classic, traditional 80s metal that is sure to please fans of this particular genre.
In this modern age of trendy, no-brains metal, Chastain's '86 release is still "Ruler Of The Wasteland".
Note - Mega Metal Records has released a reissue of this album (bootlegged?). The release features the original "Ruler Of The Wasteland" recording, the 12" recording from Malibu Barbie (a prior band fronted by Leather), and 10 demos from Chastain's early band, Spike.
About this Writer:
Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has served as senior editor for MaximumMetal.com for nearly 10 years and is the author of the heavy metal book series--Denim & Letters. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia.
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