Friday, April 22, 2011

Superchief and Corporate Dynamite

When Haldor Von Hammer, vocalist for Superchief, dropped off a copy of his band's new CD to me, I was enjoying happy hour at one of the local pubs. I had been anticipating his arrival... He had graciously called me to say that the CD had literally just come to him via the UPS guy and he would be arriving at the pub momentarily. I was already into my third Bombay Saphire Martini, and I was considering ordering a fourth, when Von Hammer entered the bar.

His arrival, much like his presence on stage was larger than life. He came bumbling in, handed me the CD, and took a seat at the table across from me. He immediately ordered a martini, and I did the same. As we waited for the bartender to bring us our drinks we talked about the production of the CD, the overall anticipation of it's arrival with the fan base in Des Moines, and the fact that I had gotten the first copy (Hell yeah!).

Then our drinks came. Von Hammer stood up, and as if in character, finished his martini in one giant gulp.

"Okay... I gotta go." He said as he slammed the martini glass back onto the table. "Play it loud!"

Then, just as quickly as he entered the bar, he was gone. But in my hand was the local scene's rock and roll equivalent of the Holy Grail. Superchief's brand new album, still wrapped in it's plastic sleeve... The buzz I was feeling wasn't just from the martinis.

Corporate Dynamite
Corporate Dynamite, begins quite subtly with an acoustic intro into the album's first track, "Fear No Shield". It's a two part song that quickly goes from it's humble intro into a tenacious assault of electric fury. Ricc Terranova's flighty guitar riffs carry this song through it's two part overture, with the rest of the band make up the Calvary that drives this battle anthem. Haldor Von Hammer shines in his role as the general, belting out the battle cry, "Fear no Shield!" with galactic conviction. The revolution has begun!

"Odin Be Praised" is the next song on the track list. Odin, the chief God of German mythology rose to prominence through the favor of the Vikings, and was the supreme lord in the 8th and 9th centuries. He was a battle warrior who would back down from nobody, and even instructed the Danish King Herald how to build a strategy and fight epic battles, before eventually turning on Herald himself and destroying his forces. He loved shifts in power.While being enigmatically ferocious in battle, he also possessed admiral qualities, such as being the most knowledgeable of the Gods, and having a deep passion for wisdom. In this particular song, Terranova's guitar riffs embody that spirit, just as Ryan Marcum's iron horse drum beats drive the pillage. "Odin Be Praised" is a song of epic stature, just as Odin himself was. And also like Odin, it leaves no stone unturned.

"Shovel in the Basement" is the first track on the CD that I would label as "stoner rock". Jason Boten seems to channel Geezer Butler through his bass guitar, and this song wouldn't be too far out of place on Sabbath's Master of Reality album. Haldor Von Hammer seems at ease with the mic, not outlandish at all, just a perfect blend of grit and fire to make the song his own. His vocals definitely take a back seat however to Boten's bass and Terranova's lucid guitar riffs.

The title track of the CD "Corporate Dynamite" is perhaps the song that would get the most airplay if it were to be featured on rock and roll radio. Obviously that doesn't mean it's the best song on the CD, but it's definitely one of stature. It has an interesting hook that latches onto the soul... It draws you in, and you get lost in it's message. At least I did... Meanwhile Terranova is spitting out ridiculous guitar leads that draw you back in. By the time you get through this song, it becomes quite clear that Terranova is the perfect compliment to Jason Monroe's rhythm guitar. Together they are an intangible force that propel Superchief to a higher level - a level that is most welcome to the Des Moines local scene. Add in Marcum's drums, Boten's bass and Von Hammer's fight club vocals, and we're dealing with a force of reckoning.

"They Call Me Nomad", the next track on the album is another song that seems to channel the forces of Black Sabbath. It's catchy riffs and vocalization stylings set it apart from the previous four songs on the CD. Ryan Marcum's drums are perfect for the song's introduction, and Jason Boten lays some cool bass lines on this track, but the real star on this song is Terranova. Once again he seals the deal with an incredible solo, which flows like an electric current through a bathtub suicide victim. Von Hammer shows some vocal range that really hasn't been displayed on the album up to this point, and it's a nice alternative to the gruff stylings he features on the other songs. "They Call Me Nomad" is definitely one of the best songs that this CD offers.

The next track, "Sweat", clings a bit to the early works of Collective Soul... Hard driving rhythm guitar riffs that drive the song into an eventual blistering frenzy. Jason Monroe, who co-wrote this song with Teranova takes the initiative on this track. Together these two guitarists almost sound like one, each of them a perfect accompaniment to the other. This song's hard driving edge can be attributed to years of practice. It's obvious that Terranova and Monroe have been playing together for awhile.

"The Story Of The King Killer" comes next. Marcum's steady drum beat leads this bodacious anthem into sonic battle. "Look at me in the eye!.. The blood flows... I kill kings... With my soul!" Von Hammer claims this with such conviction, that you actually picture him in a castle dwelling with a royal figure pinned up against a stone wall. This song has everything a rock and roll fan could want... Catchy and original guitar riffs, ass kicking lyrics, ground shattering bass lines, and a cosmic drum beat that's complimentary to the likes of Ian Paice. Perhaps a sleeper, this song might actually be the best track on the album.

Next comes "The Plan." Terranova starts it off with a catchy yet simple guitar riff that sounds like something Ronnie Montrose might have come up with. In fact, you almost expect to hear Sammy Hagar's voice in this song. Instead we get Von Hammer, who nails the vocals with the same angry conviction that we have gotten with the rest of the album. At this point, I really started to appreciate his vocals. To me they are what sticks out most with this song... Though I am not really quite sure what "The Plan" is, I do know that Von Hammer leaves little doubt that this "plan" will be carried out.

Boten and Marcum
(Photo courtesy of DMI)
Jason Monroe wrote the next track, "Saint Bukowski". Maybe you can guess what it's about... Charles Bukowski, perhaps? It seems to be a biographical account of Bukowski's life. It's an okay song that features a rebel yell from Von Hammer, which is a nice surprise, but it probably wouldn't stand on it's own. It seems hurried... Like the band needed to fill space on the album and this was quickly added. It's not a bad song... But compared to the other tracks on this CD, and like most of Bukowski's work, this song is a tragedy.

The final song on the CD is a track called "Destiny's Child". It's a great closing number. The marching beat is synonymous to the albums opening number, "Fear No Shield" which is reminiscent of marching into war. Here we are, ten songs into the album and we are still pillaging and waging war. Like Odin himself, the fight continues with Superchief. The duo of Jason Monroe and Ricc Terranova on guitars is a rare treat, and perhaps the best one two guitar punch in Des Moines, if not the midwest. Ryan Marcum has proven to be a fantastic drummer who maintains constant control of the songs on Corporate Dynamite with subtle glimpses of Nico McBrain, Ian Paice, and Stu Boy King... And Jason Boten is a fucking beast on the bass guitar. Finally, Haldor Von Hammer absolutely OWNS this album with his dinstictive and original vocal stylings. It's nice to hear a hard rock album with an actual singer, and not the same old screaming angry growls that so many hard rock outfits incorporate into their sound these days.

Terranova, Boten, Von Hammer, Monroe, and Marcum
(Click this and all photos to enlarge)
Right now Superchief is Des Moines's hottest act, and this album is digital proof of why that is. They epitomize everything that is right with rock and roll, in the blitzkrieg style of Thin Lizzy or The Dictators. If this album had been released in say... 1972, Superchief would currently be rock and roll legends and Corporate Dynamite would reign as a premier giant in the FM radio classic rock rotation.

Frankly, that would be a wonderful thing.


Anonymous said...

Never heard of these guys, but after reading this, I'd definitely buy the CD.


T.Church said...

They are having a CD release party tonight at the House of Bricks, if you are in Des Moines, Bart. 5:00 PM all ages.