Released: 2000, Grooveyard Records
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson
Prior to the internet, and before discovering mail order, I used to visit my local record store very often. I remember seeing Chris Poland’s Return to Metalopolis CD sitting in its long box on the shelf every time I went. As you may recall, Chris played on Megadeth’s first two albums. Being a big fan of Megadeth, I always had to pick up that solo CD and look at it thinking “man, I wonder what this sounds like”. I almost bought it based on one song title alone: “Khazad Dum”, a name taken from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Seven years later, I finally found out how truly awesome that album is, after buying a used cassette for a few bucks. So then my search began for the CD format. After a few months, I came across a used copy for thirty dollars. Thirty dollars!! And it had a hole punch right through the goddamn booklet! Well, I had to buy it anyway. Lo and behold, a year after that, in 1998, Return to Metalopolis was unexpectedly re-issued on Fuel 2000 Records. I thought everyone forgot about Chris! Sure he had his early ‘90s band Damn the Machine, but I for one really had no interest in them, basing my decision on one track I heard a while back, which is probably not a good thing to do. Anyhow, I was shocked when I saw Chasing the Sun listed in someone’s playlist in Metal Maniacs magazine! “What!?!? Another Chris Poland album!?!?” Fuck yes!!
But hold it! Just when you were about to whip out that air guitar and start thrashing like a Florida ‘gator with a golfer in its mouth: this album is not even metal! I must admit I was really hoping for Return to Metalopolis Part 2, but what we get here is an amalgam of jazz fusion, blues, and even a touch of funk. Now, my favorite musical form is technical metal. But there are simply not enough technical metal bands out there to satisfy my ever-growing need for musical insanity. So over the last few years I have delved into jazz fusion, particularly bands that are fronted by a guitarist (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Allan Holdsworth) or violinist (Jean-Luc Ponty). And Chasing the Sun helps fulfill my cravings almost perfectly!
Yes sir, what we get is an instrumental trio, fronted by Chris and his axe. And he really shines on this album! If you’re already familiar with his playing, you will surely be able to recognize his style, and should be thrilled with his lead work. And let me tell you, his leads are all over the place! The guy has only improved over the years! The bassist slot is held
As I alluded to earlier, the album contains much variety in terms of playing style. For example, take the opening track “Chasing the Sun”, an upbeat fusion jazz number, with …Metalopolis-like guitar leads. A perfect choice to start the album. Or how about “Hip Hop Karma”? Don’t let the title fool you…there’s no rap bullshit here! Just a funky-ass, groovy attitude, reminding me of some Liquid Tension Experiment material. And then there’s “Wendell’s Place”, a slower, moody, bluesy song that reminds me of those times back at my mother’s house when Stevie Ray Vaughan or other blues artists were being played aloud. “Robo Stomp” is another upbeat, groover, but that snare sound is sometimes questionable. Cool guitar lines though! “Straight Jacket” follows slowly, creating a relaxed atmosphere while Chris dances around on the frets like mad. Now the drums in this song are…well, horrible sounding! I don’t really understand why drummers would use electronic drums. Reminds me of Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa’s drummer in the ‘80s). In fact some of the material on this disc reminds me of Zappa’s Guitar album. The bad drum sound continues into “Cosmo’s Thumb”, another jazz attack on guitar with a funky bass and laid-back drumming. But the drums get worse in “Lu Lu’s Dream” and “Salvador” which contain a drum machine. Nooooooooo!!!!!!! Sorry, unless it’s Godflesh, the drum machine has to go. Speaking of drums, the majority of them are performed by Chris’ brother Mark, who also played on Chris’ Return to Metalopolis. Mark kicks some serious ass on the drums, fulfilling the jazz/blues/funk duties very effectively. I just wish he would keep the natural drum sound throughout the album. Bassist Francis DiCosmo is also an excellent companion, as his talent is undeniable, providing a solid foundation for the music yet maintaining interest by playing his ass off at times. The latter half of the CD is pretty calm, and lazy. But rest assure, Chris still cranks out some killer melodies, and soulful leads. The last track on the disc is “Alexandria ‘99”, recorded live with Chris’ new fusion band Ohm. On drums we have David Eagle and on bass, Robertino Pagliari. Originally appearing on the …Metalopolis album, this version obviously has a jazz twist to it now. Very cool indeed. And considering that it was taken from video camera audio, it sounds excellent!
Chasing the Sun comprises thirteen tracks recorded between 1994 and 1999. Chasing the Sun may not be a metal shredder like Return to Metalopois, but I think fans of this killer guitarist, as well as fans of talented, progressive music, including jazz fusion, should find interest in this CD. Be sure to check out Chris’ page at http://www.chrispoland.com/
as well as the Grooveyard Records page at http://www.grooveyardrecords.com/movie.htm
where you can buy this CD and other cool stuff! You know, maybe I had better check out that Damn the Machine track again.