See that thing up there? That’s the bar that’s been set incredibly high for Metal Mike Chlasciak and the debut recording from his Painmuseum outfit. First, we’ve heard about this band for years, including a stint on the ill-fated Metal Gods tour, usually in the context of Halford news reports, but most of the metal community probably hasn’t actually heard them. Second, he’s one of the most sought after guitarists in metal, recording and playing with the likes of Testament, Primal Fear, Dream Evil, and Joacim Cans (Hammerfall). Third, he’s released some incredible solo shred albums (Territory: Guitar Kill and The Spilling). Finally, his name is fucking METAL Mike Chlasciak. Plus, the recording lineup includes Halford bandmate Bobby Jarzombek and bass god Steve DiGiorgio. All of that begs the question, “How can this album NOT be awesome?”
The meager answer? Songwriting. Now, musically, this album is everything you would expect, seething metal from every note that somehow sounds like a hybrid of Halford and Amon Amarth. Relative newcomer vocalist Tim Clayborne (bearing an uncanny resemblance to wrestling’s Jeff Hardy) is a versatile powerhouse, from Halford-esque clean vocals to death metal growls to piercing screams, this guy has got some pipes on him. The only problem is that some of the lyrics he’s singing are just plain bad. “American Metalhead” could have been a killer anthem, but I’m just not feeling it. However, “Bloody Wings”, with its chorus of “Where were you?/All I wanted was to be with you”, makes it sound like pure genius, while also proving that Vehemence is the only metal band that should be allowed to write and record non-ballad love songs. I don’t even want to know what’s going on with “Hosanna Hosanna”.
OK, so it’s not ALL that bad. “Speak the Name” brings everything together outstandingly, with all the parts flowing together smoothly and Clayborne using every part of his vocal arsenal throughout. You’ll likely find yourself making metal faces, striking metal poses, and air-guitaring with much bravado. “Burn Flesh Burn” sounds like it could be a leftover from some Halford writing sessions. “Dogs in a Cage” is another standout track for its sheer metalness. With “Painmuseum (Metal for Life)”, we finally get the anthem we’ve been waiting for, much like classics such as “Motorhead” and “Exodus”, although this track is probably a little less autobiographical. Chlasciak’s solos here are some of the best on the album, as well. Then again, there is album closer “I Am Your Keeper”, which is mostly instrumental and gives him a chance to shred all over the place, with a brief verse of growled vocals tossed in about halfway through.
Going back to that bar I mentioned earlier, Painmuseum has cleared it with Metal for Life, but they knocked it off on the way over. This is most certainly some killer metal, but I’d like to see some better lyrics the next time around. Even Clayborne’s fluctuating vocal styles may annoy some listeners. It’s great to mix it up like that but it may not be a good idea to use them all in the same verse. Go ahead and pick this one up just for the killer music and the vocal power, but try not to pay much attention to what he’s saying.