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CJSS, "2-4-1" CD Review

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I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.

Lion Music reissue cover (2006)

Lion Music reissue cover (2006)

CJSS, "2-4-1"

(Reissue of World Gone Mad and Praise the Loud on one CD)

Original Release: Leviathan Records, 1986

Reissues: Leviathan Records (USA) 1999, Pavement Music (Europe) 1999, Lion Music (Finland) 2006

18 Tracks / Run Time: 75:15

CJSS was a Cincinnati, Ohio-based heavy metal band who weren't around long, but they still managed to leave a distinctive mark on the mid '80s metal scene. Best known for featuring guitar wizard David T. Chastain, CJSS released two well received studio albums in the same year—1986's World Gone Mad and Praise the Loud—before they abruptly split up. Chastain's own long-running band named after himself, fronted by the warrior-woman vocalist Leather Leone, went on to release a string of albums over the next two decades, and the pair of CJSS albums went on to attain cult status among shred-guitar aficionados and underground metal fans.

In response to constant requests for a reissue of the CJSS material, Chastain re-released both albums on a single CD in 1999 via his own Leviathan Records label, under the new title 2-4-1 (get it?).

2-4-1 was reissued again in 2006 by Finland's Lion Music, which was when I first heard this classic pairing. Somehow I'd missed out on CJSS in 1986, but I definitely liked what I heard on that reissue, and this material still sounds as heavy and majestic as ever.

"World Gone Mad"

The Songs

Chastain was the "C" in "CJSS," with the other letters represented by Russel Jinkens (vocals), Les Sharp (drums) and Mike Skimmerhorn (bass). Together the foursome's melodic but heavy sound blended the leather n' studs nastiness of vintage Judas Priest with Van Halen's anthemic, party-hearty shred-guitar style.

Since I never owned the discs separately, only as part the 2-4-1 combo platter, I've never been able to decide whether I prefer World Gone Mad or Praise the Loud. I tend to think of it all as one long album, and therefore it's easier for me to choose favorite tracks. Killer anthems like "No Man's Land," "Out of Control," and "Don't Play With Fire" have irresistible choruses and hooks to spare, with heaps of crunchy power chords and thunderous drums. Vocalist Russell Jinkins' clear, confident delivery reminds me quite a bit of L.A. Guns' Phil Lewis; his wails anchor CJSS' musical mayhem admirably.

CJSS were equally adept at high-speed burners and ominous, crunching metal tracks like "Welcome to Damnation" and the epic length "The Bargain," as well as good ol' fashioned "METAL TOTALLY RULES, DUUUUDES!" rallying cries like "Metal Forever." Add a cover of a classic rock track, (an absolutely barn burning take on Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown") and an instrumental for Chastain to show off his chops ("Thunder and Lightning") to the mix, and 2-4-1 provides a time capsule of the state of the U.S. Metal scene circa 1986. The pretty boy bands may have been getting all the action and the thrashers were getting the underground love, but there was also a healthy scene of bands like CJSS, Steeler, Lizzy Borden, Fifth Angel, and Malice (to name just a few) who were still waving the flag for traditional, melodic, straight up heavy metal for a small, but appreciative, audience.

"Praise the Loud"

Whatever Happened to CJSS?

David Chastain has been the most visible member of CJSS since their breakup -- his eponymous band has released nearly a dozen studio albums, the most recent of which (We Bleed Metal) came out in 2015. He has also released a number of solo albums and contributed to projects like Southern Gentlemen, Zanister, and Counterpoint, all while running his own Leviathan Records label imprint. Does this guy ever sleep?

In 2000, Chastain reunited with Jinkins, Skimmerhorn, and Sharp for a new CJSS album, Kings of the World. Since then, the CJSS camp has been silent aside from the 2012 release of The 7 Hills Demo, a collection of remastered, previously unreleased tracks (presumably intended for a third studio album) recorded in the mid '80s. I've only heard a few of the 7 Hills tracks via YouTube, but it sounds like they pick up right where World Gone Mad and Praise the Loud left off, so it merits further investigation!

Left: Leviathan Records cover(1999), right: Pavement Records cover (1999)

Left: Leviathan Records cover(1999), right: Pavement Records cover (1999)

Further Listening

World Gone Mad and Praise the Loud were reissued yet again (separately) in 2020 via the old-school metal specialist label Divebomb Records. These "Deluxe Editions" have been fully remastered and each album features four bonus tracks. Once again, the old-timers have a chance to upgrade their worn-out vinyl or cassette copies, and newbies who've never heard CJSS can find out what all the fuss was about.

No matter which package you choose, World Gone Mad and Praise the Loud are essential listening for fans and collectors of classic underground U.S. metal!

© 2021 Keith Abt

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