Album Review: Chris Holmes Project- 'CHP'.
Best known as the ‘Mean Man’ of W.A.S.P., Chris Holmes made his name as the iconic blonde bomber who not only provided the ripping leads to, but co-wrote such 1980s’ classics as ‘Wild Child’ and ‘L.O.V.E. Machine’. Anyone who needs convincing on just how fantastic Holmes was back in the day, need look no further than ‘Thunderhead’; a high-water mark from his former outfit’s 1988 release ‘The Headless Children’, it remains an awe-inspiring piece of metal melodrama, filled with guitar licks that burst with skill, polish, refinement and finesse.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of ‘CHP’. A lot of time has passed since those heady days, and like the custom ‘Yellow Beast’ guitar drapes over his shoulder on the cover, Holmes has seen better days. Featuring material culled from his first two solo releases; 2012’s ‘Nothing To Lose’, and 2015’s ‘Shitting Bricks’, the painful fact is that ‘CHP’ is the antithesis of the above. Let’s be quite clear; ‘CHP’ is not good, and as the half million viewers on his Youtube channel can no doubt attest, it is for the most part, car crash material.
Holmes first re-emerged back on the metal scene a little over three years ago, launching a solo career that saw him take on lead vocals as well as guitar playing duties. It was then that the infamous first video for ‘They All Lie And Cheat’ was first unleashed. A shocking shambles featuring a green screen in which whoever produced it failed to actually layer any actual content over, its shoddy production values were reflected in its audio aesthetic.
Though utterly hilarious in its rambling lyrical content, ‘They All Lie And Cheat’ featured out of tune guitars, and out of time drums, and though it would be nice to think that it was a one off oversite, it isn’t. From the off, ‘CHP’ follows the same path, with the opening ‘Looser’ and the moody ‘Down In The Hole’ showcasing the same distractingly wonky rhythms. It’s simply shocking stuff.
Finding something good to say about ‘CHP’ is about as easy as convincing Blackie Lawless that there is no god. There are however, brief glimpses of the guitar titan of old. Holmes does attempt to retain his instantly identifiable heavily chorused guitar sound – or a cheap facsimile of it at least, and his soloing on the thundering ‘Get With It’, the anthemic ‘Let It Roar’, and even the country-tinged ‘Born Work Die’ prove that the kamikaze man is still capable of replicating former glories.
It’s not enough to save the album however, and there are myriad problems; from Holmes’ barking vocals, to the lack of quality control. However, the worst offender – other than the aforementioned rhythmic backbone – is the shockingly low rent production. In places the sound is nothing short of horrible, with a dire mix that pushes grating cymbal crashes and overbearing sound effects up front, creating a cacophony that drowns out what lies beneath.A man with a vintage stellar catalogue behind him should know better, and one has to wonder what on earth those who have encouraged him to release this material were thinking.
They say that god loves a trier, however there’s a big difference between being just that, and simply being trying. What Holmes needs is a decent band, and a good producer, and with his new outfit Mean Man, perhaps he has already taken that first step. With the promise of new material later this year, perhaps it’s not too late yet. At this juncture there really is nothing to lose.
By Eamon O'Neill.
First published on myglobalmind.com, 9 March 2016.