Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Chris Poland – Return to Metalopolis (1990)

Some metalheads may remember guitarist Chris Poland as one of the original guitarists in the band Megadeth. He appeared on their first two albums before getting fired by Dave Mustaine for his excessive drug use. (And you know if your drug use is excessive compared to a mid-1980s Dave Mustaine, you’ve got some serious problems.) After getting clean, he did a brief stint as bassist in the Circle Jerks, and then came back to metal and did this solo album. He’s since done more work in the Jazz-fusion-y direction with his band Ohm.

This ten-track (or nine-track – if you have the first release on tape, it won’t have the track “Heinous Interruptus”) album is an all-instrumental attempt to showcase Poland’s playing with melodic guitar that alternates thick rhythm with a lot of weaved textures of fast leads and some occasional acoustic. He plays everything on the album, bass and guitars, with his brother Mark on the drums.

Even though Poland originally worked with a straightforward thrash band, all of the compositions here are more jazz-metal oriented, more similar to someone more Joe Satriani. The guitar work is very modal, but it does sport more screaming leads in places. Each song has very memorable structure, like in “The Fall of Babylon,” which starts with acoustic guitar, then builds for four minutes, occasionally dipping back to the unamplified guitar before he wraps it up and bookends again with the acoustic. “Row of Crows” starts with a romping riff that then pulls to very soaring guitar sounds, then speeds up the drums on the way out, like a car driving like a bat out of hell toward the horizon. Probably one of the best tracks is the ending, “Khazad Dum,” which starts off minor and almost sinister, and at the end, completely takes off with quick double-bass drum and an almost constant solo that leaps to the finish.

This is an extremely impressive little album. Like I said, it weighs in at only about 35 minutes, but it’s the kind of thing I always, immediately have to listen to a second time. The most amazing thing about this album is that I found it as a cut-out in a dollar store in 1993, and for the longest time, I heard absolutely nothing else about it. Right after it came out, Enigma records went under, which effectively buried the album, There was a CD reissue in 1998, and a new reissue in 2002 with two extra tracks. They also released a live version of the album in 2007, originally recorded on a truncated 1991 live tour. I think people on the internet have spread the word on this little gem, though. It’s well worth finding, although I usually skip the bonus tracks and go for just the original stuff I found so awe-striking back when I first heard this.

Rating: 9