The sound of Canada’s JOINT CHIEFS can be more or less summed up in a single word: raw. Obviously, the connotations associated with this word are not purely negative; for these three self-diagnosed “hockey goons from a mill town”, it really works for them. Their raw power recalls the muddy, simplistic sound of the early 80s Metal bands, an era which the CHIEFS have confessed to love wholeheartedly.
Spread out over a half-hour, “…And Still We Kill” is an aggressive eight-song showcase of Heavy Metal riffage. Though a certain energy level is maintained throughout the album (which is an impressive feat), the first half of the album is much weaker than the second half in terms of songwriting and variety. Songs like “Violent Deterrent” and “Duncan Shaw”, in spite of their obvious power and aggression, seem to plod interminably. They are saved, albeit briefly, by occasionally clever solos from guitarist Dentor.
Things start to pick up towards the end of the album with the one-two punch of “Galactica” and album closer “Still I Kill”. Is it ironic that, on an album where speed and force are key, the two longest songs are also the two best? On “Still I Kill”, vocalist Dentor even breaks his characteristic gravelly voice in favor of some Halford-style shrieks, proving he’s a much more capable vocalist than the throaty growls on the album would lead you to believe.
As you might guess from both a “raw” album and an independent release (the band owns Green Metal Music themselves), the production is God-awful. Obviously, THE JOINT CHIEFS were aiming for this kind of sound, but at times, it’s a little too much. Dentor’s guitar tone is particularly grimy, both as rhythm and during his solos. Still, after listening to so much über-slick Power Metal lately, such a departure in production is an interesting change of pace. Also due to the overdose of Power Metal, I’d forgotten what a bass sounds like; THE JOINT CHIEFS were kind enough to boost Roach’s bass volume through the roof in order to remind me. However, with only three guys in the band, you never get that feeling that the overloud bass is competing for album space with the guitar tracks that you do in, say, IRON MAIDEN. Rather, it complements it.
Overall, “…And Still We Kill” is a slightly above-average effort from the Canadians. If you like your Metal raw, forceful, and oldschool, then you might want to give THE JOINT CHIEFS a shot. For the rest of us, however, the album’s simply too rough for its own good. When you’re trying to do a “back to basics” album, one must always make sure to avoid paying tribute to the worst parts of the desired musical era; in this case, horrid production and occasionally lackluster songwriting.
(Online February 10, 2007)