Chrome Division – 3rd Round Knockout (2011)

Posted: July 4, 2011 in Music

Everyone has a skeleton in their closet. For some, it’s as simple as a foot fetish or a love for kiddie cartoons. For others, it may be as serious as sexual preference, drug addiction, or dead bodies buried in their basement. But none of that seems as extreme to me as the skeleton owned by Dimmu Borgir frontman Shagrath (seen here.)

As one of the most popular faces for extreme death metal, Shagrath has spent years being as evil, complex and diverse as any artist in music. That said, you can imagine the surprise to find his “other” project being creator and guitarist of Chrome Division. It’s a “bizarro world” transformation that defies genres, logic, and anything I thought I knew about him.

You see, Chrome Division isn’t a death metal band. In fact, it really isn’t a metal band at all. What they are is stripped down, dirty rock and roll more likely to be playing at your local bar and grill in the wee hours of a Friday night than anywhere else. The satanic face-painting and spiked leather cuffs have been replaced here with denim vests and cowboy hats. It’s a laid-back sound that reminds the listener of Motorhead or Thin Lizzy. It’s grimy and sexy. It’s unpolished and simple. It’s bandanas and bikers, and it’s pretty damn good.

So how does a guy go from Beelzebub to barbecue so effortlessly? Well, it seems Shagrath has always had good old fashioned rock and roll buried deep in his black heart. He and former Dimmu drummer Lex Icon (now with Kovenant) would stay behind after Dimmu Borgir rehearsals and jam out some good ol’ fashioned rock tunes. In fact, the duo even recorded a few tracks, but due to commitments with the main band, could not pursue the project any further.

Many years later, Shagrath just couldn’t shake the fever, and decided on officially forming a band to play this motorcycle rock and cut an album. That album, 2006’s Doomsday Rock n’ Roll, was a personal triumph for the band. It didn’t break any records commercially, but it was a band having fun making music far different from their normal daily routine, and that joy and energy showed.

In fact, it was so much fun for Shagrath, that he went on to record a second album in 2007. The album caught a bit more attention from the media this time around, and while still carrying a “fun” vibe, started adding a few new musical elements that anchored the band in legitimacy.

No longer just a playful distraction from the throes of extreme metal, the band is back with its third album, 3rd Round Knockout. Without a doubt, the band is still having a blast, but they are now doing it with a more serious approach. It’s still greasy biker-thrash, but it comes across far more sincere. The writing is a bit stronger, and the energy seems much more focused on making a powerful album.

The end result is a mature, inspired release, worthy of the soundtrack to your next backyard cookout or bar fight. Adding substance to the normal guitar-heavy southern rock vibe are a few hints at the black metal roots along the way – but it’s still just good, unabashed rock. No ballads, no bullshit, and no apologies.

I can tell you which tracks are good in three words – all of them. The real standouts, however, are the opener “Bulldogs Unleashed,” the groove-laden “7 G-strings,” the ultra-heavy “Unholy Roller,” and the superb cover of Stan Jones’ 1948 classic “Ghost Riders In The Sky” (which gets the video feature of this post below). The rest of the album has its strength as well, as the improvement here from the last album is a full-on assault of recording ten solid tracks that keep the listener involved through every verse.

Sure, Shagrath is going back to his day job summoning demons and painting crucifixes with Dimmu Borgir, but hopefully he’ll keep one hand on the throttle of this project for years, as it is – on its own and without the history – one of the more pleasant releases I’ve heard so far this year.


01 – Bulldogs Unleashed
02 – 7 G-Strings
03 – Join The Ride
04 – Unholy Roller
05 – Zombies & Monsters
06 – Fight
07 – The Magic Man
08 – Bulldogs Unleashed
09 – Ghost Riders In The Sky
10 – Satisfy My Soul

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