Chain Gang Grave – Cement Mind Review

A brawl has just broken out in Ye Angry Metal Tavern. In a throat clogging cloud of pipe smoke, gentlemen with handlebar mustaches throw fists and tankards of stale bitter. The landlady has booked the wrong band again. Guided by the corrupt death punk of Chain Gang Grave, this quintessential British country pub has erupted. Old Man Jorn, untouchable, has ripped off his tweed breeches as he windmills his wispy hair in the carpeted pit, a fire has been started in the trophy room, and the posers have left the hall for good. As bar staff cower and gentle folk reveal the chaos at the core of their true selves, Andrew Lanza and Jason Markowitz of Chain Gang Grave smile, spit, and shout as they perform tracks from their debut full-length: Cement Mind.

Chain Gang Grave are dressed in the grit and grime of their home: Brooklyn. Cement Mind is an unhinged creature that fires out a thumping hybrid of death metal and punk. In a sense, Cement Mind sounds like a crusty late 80’s demo unearthed, for the first time, from the basement of an old school tape wizard. The mix, though rough, suits Chain Gang Grave’s style excellently. The crackling, shivering tone of guitars, the tub-thumping buoyancy of drums, and the wolverine-like fuzz of Andrew Lanza’s growls work together in perfect discord. Take the twinkling, churning stomps of “Backwards Reaction” as an example. The track is a chaotic mix of sludge, death and punk that merges simple rock melodies with death abrasiveness in an oddly alluring manner. As the years progress and my mind becomes foggier, I find myself agreeing more and more with no nonsense nonsense of this sort. All hail ugliness. All hail death punk.

Cement Mind is just over thirty minutes of rough and rowdy street fighting. Rarely letting up, Cement Mind is a breeze to get through. The best moments of the record occur when Chain Gang Grave merge a metal malignancy with a punk rock playfulness. “Strawberry Lye” slips, skips and slides and builds with punk roughness, leading into the excellent “Fever Dream,” a crazed romp that takes conventional sound and presses it through dense metallic machinery. Lanza’s vocals warp and cascade gleefully alongside the track, providing another layer of intrigue. The simple chunked riffs and swaggering drum fills of “Tinfoil Brain Leech” allow Lanza’s vocals to rise to the fore again. As the guitarist, bassist and vocalist, Lanza spearheads the attack with manic confidence.

Though ready for combat, there are a few moments – poised and ready to strike with cement-filled gloves – that fail to hit the target. These moments occur when the band are staggering with less of a groovy punk vibrancy. Tracks that are less successful, opener “Cement Mind” for example, surge and stomp but lack a dynamic element and satisfying ending. “A Touch of Evil”  begins with a grippingly mangled stomp but runs out of stamina as it reaches the four minute mark. Closer “Psychic Commode” equally trails off as the song passes the four minute mark. Cement Mind is better with tracks that arrive, burst, and leave without warning.

The Tudor tavern is no more. Chain Gang Grave has turned Ye Angry Metal Tavern into a smoldering heap. Cement Mind is an animalistic tirade. Playful and nasty, Chain Gang Grave balance elements well for the most part. Standout tracks are sure to cling to your memory like leeches. Less successful tracks will drift away into a mush of gray. Cement Mind is a good release that demonstrates Chain Gang Grave’s ability to hybridize yet remain faithful to old school sounds. The band has expressed a love for Black Flag, Rites of Spring and Immolation. Look through the fog of war at Ye Angry Metal Tavern and you’ll see their ghosts nodding in approval.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Independent
Websites: chainganggrave.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/CGGNYC
Releases Worldwide: April 16th, 2021

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