Pulling Paul’s Chain

16 Nov

A buddy of mine once rightly noted that, given the tidal wave of progressive rock that burst forth out of Italy in the 1970’s, it was quite possible that there was a time when every adult Italian male over the age of 15 had participated in the creation of at least one prog rock record. Just like Israeli Army conscription, you had to serve your time – no exceptions.

PAUL CHAIN didn’t, no sir. Instead he formed the very first “horror music” band – DEATH SS. They were an insane, screamy band of overblown & overwrought teen metal dudes who drooled a bloody form of ALICE COOPER-damaged, SABBATHoid rock that sounded nothing like what LE ORME or PFM were spewing at the time. DEATH SS dressed like monster movie extras, had a literal “cult” following, and released some poorly-recorded but effective 45s & demos in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Their stuff will give most of you residing in developed nations a righteous, stinging nosebleed. After you’re done banging your head, that is.

But then, in 1983, Paul went solo. And IT GOT REALLY, REALLY GOOD.

Paul Mirror

Paul was one of the few in southern Europe to spend some serious time – it can now be measured in decades – getting to know those slow/mid-tempo rhythmic flows & surges that 70’s dudes used to call heavy rock. In the 80’s, he also spent an equal amount of time exploring all that gothic detritus/minutiae that hangs from the music we know and love (or fucking despise) as METAL. Meaning: he was just as likely to come at you with a MORRICONE-like soundscape of errie bells, chanting, and cackling howls as he was a lean, mean BUDGIE-esque crunch groover. And then, in the 90’s, he’d inexplicably stretch out into a 15 min., minor-key ALLMAN-style gtr jam. I love it all.

What’s particularly mindbending are the phonetic vocalizations on his records. You’ll occasionally hear a word or phrase that sounds “English”, but more often – it’s just Paul hollering DOOM MUSH over the din that somehow matches the chords & notes perfectly. That, plus his copious use of church organ gives his records a special tension/dread that is really something to behold. And there are few in the annals of Heavy Metal, this side of Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich (SAINT VITUS, THE OBSESSED, THE HIDDEN HAND, etc.) with the kind of dark-hued, grim melodic content this man throws at ya. That’s high praise.

I can’t pretend to know much about Paul’s life & career, except that he’s a man of real spiritual conviction, someone with some very idiosyncratic ideas about how music oughta be put together, and a fucking great gtr player. And a legacy of over 3 dozen records to prove it! At this point, I’ve explored over half of these, and all of em (whether he’s doing spacerock, soundtracky instrumentals, stoner doom, keyboard-based “improv goth”, or freakin’ wild NWOBHM) are stamped hard with that schizo, underworld Mario Bava vibe of his. Which, I guess, is the Paul Chain vibe. Rest assured, it’s like no other.

Where should you start? Well I have a particular fondness for his late 80’s psycho-NWOBHM phase . . . and his HAWKWIND-tribute tribal jams (released by “Paul Chain – The Improvisor”) from the late 90’s/early 2000s . . . not to mention his Park of Reason CD from 2002, a bonified stoner-epic . . . but really, it’s all pretty great and totally fascinating/alien to my California-bred mindset. Where can you buy some of it? Well there’s some Italian guys selling his CDs on ebay, but sending money to Italy has always been a dicy proposition. Aw hell, do it anyway – if PAUL CHAIN ever arrives in your mailbox, you’re gonna thank me! Where can you hear it? Check out the fan MySpace sites below, they’ve got a decent cross-section of Paul’s body of work represented:

Paul Chain

Paul Chain Violate Theatre

And here’s a classic one off of his In The Darkness LP (Minotauro Records, 1986):

Welcome to My Hell

Paul Chain

Thanks to Stephano Miraglia for the great portrait of Paul

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2 Responses to “Pulling Paul’s Chain”

  1. Dave Lang November 18, 2007 at 1:22 am #

    Great post, and a real eye-opener. I only just got into Death SS last year, and they blew my head off. I was under the impression that Sylvester was the only guy in the band to’ve done anything the last 25 years (he kinda WAS Death SS, wasn’t he?), but you’ve just opened a big can of worms for me. Definitely time to investigate the world of Paul Chain! My wallet will not thank you.

  2. mrowster November 18, 2007 at 3:22 am #

    What Ed Kuepper was to THE SAINTS, Paul Chain was to DEATH SS. No lie.

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