I don’t think that by me reviewing this band they’ll gain some surge in popularity. Although, I must admit, it is something of a fantasy for me to be able to talk about their music and get more than blank stares. I’ve reluctantly become comfortable with the fact that one of punk’s best kept secrets will probably remain just that. But, I cannot in good conscience not try.
The Chain hail from Olympia, WA and share members with Sharkpact and the incredible folk punk band Hail Seizures. Their sound is best described as a mix of melodic punk, crust, hardcore, and folk with dual male and female vocals and a strong political bent. If I had to describe them in the context of other bands I’ve heard, I would say they sound like a mix of Submission Hold, early Against Me!, and Amebix tempered into a cohesive whole, intent on pummelling the listener with their abrasive melodicism.
“Swarm” opens the album with a dark riff and piercing snare drums. When the vocals come in, they sound as if they’re sung by the people who need to sing them. There’s a volatility present in the song sorely missed in a lot of modern punk, but it’s all extrapolated from a very pure basic form. At its most fundamental, “Swarm” is a folk song, but The Chain performs it with such hardcore intensity it’s impossible not to be affected by it. “The Process” is slower paced and methodical, almost dirge-like in its grinding melancholy. Possibly the crustiest track on 5 Song Tape, it captures apocalyptic doom so well it becomes palpable.
Hardcore dominates “Dead Aesthetic,” which also features some incredible trilling fretwork and a couple of great hooks. The passionately screamed bridge and its driving drumwork is one of the most intense moments on 5 Song Tape. “New Eyes” is another song that captures a dark tone perfectly, but fleshes it out with some great riffage and a abundance of dynamics. The Chain don’t strictly adhere to verse/chorus structure, making their music that much more interesting to listen to. The final track on 5 Song Tape is a monster. Running in at exactly six minutes, “Measure” is a barrage of all of The Chain’s best tendencies. It’s raw and melodic, but not overbearingly so (although I doubt ‘overbearing melody’ is a common complaint for The Chain). At a certain point, near the midway mark, “Measure” seems to end prematurely, but is resurrected by stray guitar notes that slowly lead to a frenetic crust breakdown. It’s a powerful musical moment that ends 5 Song Tape with a reminder that The Chain are more than just political polemics with anarcho fury– they’re musicians.
I haven’t been this excited about a band in a long time. For me, this is everything I could ever want in punk rock. The Chain are simultaneously abrasive and melodic, pulling influences from all across the punk spectrum. There’s a uniqueness to their sound that begs to be dissected, and while I can acknowledge it might not be for everyone, I can say that for those who are open to the music, it’s something special.
Check out 5 Song Tape here.
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