Fessing up, in the interest of transparency: the following is a comprehensive revision of a piece I wrote for an old web project called 100 Axes about 8 or 9 years ago. For a brief while in the late 80s I did some roadying for the band and I had guitar lessons from their guitarist Alec Pollock, who also went on to record and co-produce my band Dog Moon Howl‘s first album last year. I also ran Chasar’s first authorised website. For this fresh take on the review, I listened to my original copy of the tape which I bought new in 1984.
A classic power trio featuring the aforementioned Alec Pollock on guitar/vocal, Peter Marshall on bass/guitars/pedals and brother Jim Marshall on drums, Chasar were local boys done good, from our neck of the woods yet touring the country, recording for Tommy Vance at Radio One and getting regular mentions and play on Tom Russell’s legendary Clyde Rock Show. They’d also self-released their album on cassette. All-in-all, a pretty big deal when you’re from the arse-end of nowhere, particularly back then.
I borrowed the tape from a mate at school and I was blown away. There was a big Rush influence, but this was heavier, with the most obvious other influences, I would say, being Ozzy-era Sabbath and Randy Rhodes-era Ozzy. Now, in those days, Rush and Ozzy were just about as cool as it got for your average teenage heavy rock fan. There was also a strong contingent of newer bands – the tail end of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. I remember Mama’s Boys, Heavy Pettin, Preying Mantis and Glasgow as being of particular interest, as well as the related prog movement of the time, particularly Pallas and Marillion. Although these days they’re considered to be part of the NWOBHM, at the time Chasar seemed to be a bridge between those two camps of metal and prog.
Listening now, this is still an outstanding set, with the indie, low budget production doing it a lot of favours by avoiding any Big ’80s Production pitfalls and leaving the whole thing still sounding fresh. The first track, Destiny, was a regular live opener and remains one of my favourite tracks. A jagged riff with an anti-oppression lyric straight out of Thatcher’s Britain: “I was never meant for here, I was born to fly/But now you’ve got me in your cage I’ve got to run, do or die …” Alec’s somewhat raw vocals, seen by some at the time as a weak point, now stand as one of the principal reasons Chasar doesn’t sound as dated as many of its contemporaries. A reluctant singer, Alec avoided the fashionable scream-for-effect histrionics associated with metal acts of the day and his straight ahead rock delivery lends the album an extra edge.
Visions Of Time is the first of the album’s epics, a great brooding beast of a thing, immediately contrasted with Deceiver, a three-minute rocker with a violent riff and girl-gone-bad lyrics. Side One closes with another epic, Kings. The first song the band ever wrote together, this sees them wearing their Rush influences on their sleeves – and a song about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, no less! Still, that doesn’t stop it being a fine tune even if much of it sounds like it could be an outtake from 2112.
Side Two kicks off with Lights, continuing the epic theme, this time with a surprisingly chirpy feel (in as much as a seven-minute power-trio rock song can be ‘chirpy’…) and a scary guitar solo. Next, a left-turn into the full-on heavy rock of Gypsy Roller. Always a live favourite, it leaves no arse unkicked with a big riff, ferocious, shred-machine solo and Lizzy-esque lyrics about gypsies and sheriffs and that. Gypsy Roller would be the album highlight for me but for the album closer, the epic to end them all, Underground.
Underground embodies Chasar at their best. Each band member’s strengths are to the fore – Alec’s leads switch from ‘atmospheric’ to ‘blazing’ in a heartbeat while Peter expertly treads the line between ‘solid’ and ‘flashy’ and Jim’s almost jazzy drumming is a standout throughout. The song is nine minutes long but it never gets boring due to a dramatic, multi-faceted framework (the aggressive, not to mention impressive, main riff doesn’t kick in until two-minutes into the track) with a dark lyric serving to round out the album’s overall mood. It’s intense.
My old tape hasn’t survived the decades unscathed. Plenty of wobble and dropouts to testify to its residency in my old Panasonic Walkmanalike. These days, I’d best stick to the vinyl. The original tape release ran to either one or two thousand and was largely sold out by 1985, when the album was given a vinyl release by American Phonograph. A year or two later there was a European release on Mausoleum under the title Gypsy Rollers. The latter made it to CD sometime in the late ’80s. Since then, there has been at least one “semi official” CD release on a dodgy Spanish-based Euro label. The tapes are a real rarity and the last time one went online it fetched around £25. The vinyl does crop up – the American Phonograph version can go from £20+ to silly money and seems to average around £40 in the right condition. The Mausoleum version is slightly more common and is usually around the £18 mark. The Mausoleum CD’s a bit of a mystery. If you can pick up a copy of Chasar, whatever the format (or title), you really should.
Who knows, we might yet see a reissue as the band is back together, with Iain Tait (vocalist from the band’s post-album lineup) back in the fold, also taking up bass duties after Peter Marshall’s tragic death in the ’90s. Maybe we’ll even get Album Two … in the meantime check them out live if you get the chance. They haven’t missed a step – still insanely good.