Give him credit, David T. Chastain never quits. Since the eighties, Chastain has slugged it out in the metal underground, never wholly capitalizing on his tenure and perseverance. Yet CHASTAIN the band has a strong following and loyalists will immediately flock to "Surrender to No One", which features the return of original vocalist (and co-writer) Leather Leone plus bassist Mike Skimmerhorn. Rounding out the quasi-reunion of CHASTAIN's foundation lineup is PAGAN'S MIND/FIREWIND drummer Stian Kristoffersen, who steals the show from the under the rug of the main attraction players.
Kristoffersen is a huge force on "Surrender to No One" and because of him, CHASTAIN delivers one of the heaviest albums in the band's prolonged history. Though David Chastain has dallied with his sound over the years, "Surrender to No One" is a retro CHASTAIN record with stamped-down modern drumming munitions. The opening numbers, "Stand and Fight" and "Call of the Wild", for instance, bear straightforward trad metal strikes in conjunction with double-timed exclamations along the main grooves. Stian Kristoffersen then divvies out trip hammers galore on "Deep Down in the Darkness", which prompts David Chastain and Mike Skimmerhorn to play rowdily along in lower chords.
Despite this band being David Chastain's showcase to riff and solo at his own discretion, the attention is naturally redirected upon Leather Leone, one of heavy music's original leading ladies alongside Betsy Bitch, Wendy O. Williams, Sabina Classen, Lee Aaron, Lita Ford and Doro Pesch. That being said, Leone's return to CHASTAIN is marked by a grizzled and gargling projection set on repeated courses throughout "Surrender to No One"'s songs. Leone's parts, however, often jockey for position in the mix that favors Kristoffersen's enormous rolls, double times and blast patterns.
Mike Skimmerhorn does a rock solid job plugging beneath David Chastain's profuse strumming and when Stian Kristoffersen isn't blowing the rest of the band away, Skimmerhorn glues onto him nicely as well. They sound massive together on the slow compressions of "I Am Sin" and the thwacking title track, which bleeds some of the fastest parts into the album. On the latter, every player gets a fair crack to shine, even if Kristoffersen yet again wallops his way to the front. He also seizes "Rise Up" with a dizzying array of tempo changes and spiraling rolls that Chastain and Skimmerhorn manage to hop aboard after restraining themselves for a few bars.
The globby keys during the opening of "Bleed Through Me" aren't very appealing, though the drag-pound scheme of the song and its stop-go riff sections gives Leather Leone the space she needs to take control. It becomes her best performance on the album outside of her robust heaves amidst the melodic struts of "Save Me Tonight".
"Surrender to No One" is supposed to be Leone's show and it is, but only to the effect that old guard metalheads will rejoice hearing her throw down her prickly pipes like she'd never left CHASTAIN, only hibernated inside a portable hole awhile. Her abraded chops aren't for everyone, but neither are those belonging to later gen omega growler Karyn Crisis. Which is to say, the will to roar is stronger than any other variable, even a drummer that bludgeons harder than his front woman.