Hard Reviews 4
by Martin Popoff

Raging Slab - The Dealer
(Tee Pee)

Damn, they just got it goin' on, don't they? Greg and Elyse and that farm and that wry sense of humour and that love of redneck rock spiced with a little jest, a little tongue in cheek, a little too much smarts. Greg seems to look at this stuff like a bemused academic, and subsequently he grinds retro like sausage, landing between Clutch and Nashville Pussy, purposefully difficult, nothing like stoner rock, leaning into things from the '70s we ain't never heard but stuff he's got buried deep in that smoke, flood, dog, beer, scratch and mold damaged record collection of his. How else do you end up with a Black Oak Arkansas INSTRUMENTAL, and other truck parts that sound like the Allmans making BTO songs sound good? The Dealer isn't as groovy as the old records where there must have been an element of trying to please the labels (who at that time could only have seen commercial possibilities if they were also strategizing hits by trying to make Badlands cover Slow Ride(!)). No, this is like a three-legged sack race at times, compressed and urgent while at the same time methodical, the band digging into arcane riffs and rhythms, searching far and wide and under the bed for ways to retool hard southern rock, quite the task when there were few examples of such a beast. Same pondering pathway that Neil and his longbeards in Clutch are wandering, and we're far better for having these good ol' eccentrics on our side.
Rating 9

Chinchilla - Madness
(Metal Blade)

Now how do you think I missed a name like that through a 13-year career of fits, starts, break-ups, albums, tours? Well, I did, yet here's the little German rodent, showing up with a fortified, rough and tumble collection of non-obvious power metal tunes off the path like Nocturnal Rites (by the way, why are those guys still under the radar?). This works for three reasons: it's a bit distorted, it's a bit non-flash, and Thomas Laach is a truly interesting vocalist, sorta (and only occasionally) like Bruce Dickinson when he's really horse and histrionic (think Samson - Shock Tactics) or David Defeis in full shout mode. The non-flash part comes with the band's galloping, one-direction one-dimensionality, which makes Chinchilla sound like an obscure Swedish EP band from 1985, y'know, rare and isolated and unheard. Half way through, there's a tundra-metalized cover of Kiss' I Stole Your Love, not exactly a philosophical match to the album, but a nice bit of humourous relief all the same. Weird, all the better because they don't sound too clued in to the power metal handbook, sort of freezing without proper winter jackets with an upthrust fist going “us against the world!” Watch how many reviews slam this album for no reason other than the name, although you may not notice that that's the reason.
Rating 7.5

Hard Reviews Page 5