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CHATTERbOX [reviews]
Despite |Tooth & Nail Records, 1994|

1. Torque, 2. Empty, 3. Fallen, 4. Spine, 5. Internal, 6. Soulscum, 7. Divide, 8. External, 9. Epignosis, 10. Sunshine

This album earned a maximum 4 gears rating, with a brief explanation below.
First of all, I am an atheist, so Tooth & Nail Records being classified as a Christian music label played absolutely no part in my evaluation of this album. However, Tooth & Nail along with R.E.X Music were able to sign some of the most talented and aggressive industrial metal bands during a three year span in the 1990's. What surprises me the most is that the musical content had to present Christian values. The only other label I am aware of that could successfully market non-secular music during that era was a division of Mercury/Polygram known as Slipdisc Records.

Second, a maximum rating doesn't depend on one word song titles, however, I cannot deny that one word song titles sound perfect for dynamic metal music. In addition, they are easy to remember.
Personally, I do not find song lyrics very significant when rating music either. The music is always the first thing that captures my attention. I find a voice in the instruments. A singular sound that can complete a composition. Even if the note doesn't stand for anything special and only strikes me with its purity. When the vocal tracks stick out of a song too much, they become pretty distracting.

The reason for a maximum rating is solely based on the music itself. I judge music by its emergence, intensity, dynamics, aggression, precision of arrangements and perfection of performance. Music must always primarily entrap me within its atmosphere. It may seem easy to match all of the components used to make an industrial rock or industrial metal song. Compositions of this genre are based on guitars, bass, drums, vocals and samplers; thus ordinary instruments. At least in this case, the fact that it is classified as "Christian Industrial Metal" (a categorization which sounds somewhat funny to me, but let it be) is of no consequence.
I’ve been listening to a variation of many music styles, so it’s easy for me to recognize if a song sounds similar to what I’ve heard so far by any other band. However, an atmosphere of a song is what becomes specific to the artist. Mood and definition are what singles out an albums perfection, and at the same time it's difficult to be recreated. Atmosphere is like smell or taste; something difficult to be perfectly memorized or reconstructed. However, psychologically, if there are other special circumstances accompanied within the environment while a taste or smell or a sound appears, our brains recall those senses and atmospheres as well, in the same way we memorized them the very first time.

Chatterbox (originally written as CHATTERbOX) had a musical strength derived from atmospheres. The success of their compositions were made possible by a sleek choreography of "live" instruments, human voices and the use of machines such as samplers, mixers and other outboard gear. The band had a unique sound that was very original with exceptional expression kept in their songs. They were extremely underground and quite unknown on a secular level. However, they were well known to listeners following the works of Scott Albert (Known theseday's as Klayton from Celldweller).

Chatterbox was not afraid to mix up a set of songs ranging from heavy industrial metal to experimental and also dark ambient atmospheric passages that made for a full and completely diverse album. The experiments with sounds and samplers weren't casual, however, they may sound improvised. Knowing that Klayton's hard work and energy was put into Chatterbox as well as the virtuoso guitar playing skills of Garret Morgan along with Jeff Bellew, the songs felt as heavy as they did conceptual.

There are tracks like „Torque", Spine" and "Epignosis" which are based on repetitive guitar riffs, but other than that, "Empty" is reminiscent of music by Skrew when it comes to sampling, lead guitar riffs and aggressive vocals merged with some effects.
The judgmental part of me can say with satisfaction that "Fallen" and "Soulscum" are the best songs on the Despite album. They show how simplicity can be valuable, when based on a few guitar riffs, drums and aggressive vocals only. It's completely unnecessary to make complicated arrangements that are overloaded with sounds to create interesting and memorable atmospheres. Successful achievements of bands like Chatterbox, Skrew, Testify, Ministry or Treponem Pal proved that simple yet dynamic songs based on a trio of guitar, bass and drums (with additional sampling used for cool industrial effects such as machine activity, pistons grinding and all those gadgets known from sci-fi movies) were the best songs ever.
There are also experimental and instrumental passages between the songs "Internal" and "External", as well as darker, wide open compositions like "Divide" which begin with a dark ambient background enriched with Middle Eastern prayers that turn into a full blown punk song next.

Finally, there's "Sunshine", a stunning cover of a 1939 pop song called "You Are My Sunshine", credited to former Louisiana state governor and country music singer Jimmie Davis. Chatterbox paraphrased the song typically to their own style; made it dark and gloomy, thus scary sounding. It seems to speak of destroying the Suns power (metaphorically – love, but in a context of patriarchal feelings) more than its warmth.
I find "Sunshine" to be a perfect short movie score; it could be well matched to an animated film, scientific documentary or science fiction because of an atmosphere that speaks with images within the mind of the listener. The song is also very difficult to ignore, after all, it's very catchy. This cover song perfectly encapsulates the disintegration (destruction, catastrophe) of a stable structure (world, planet or relationship) broken by ten minutes of long silence. A technique which has seemingly been used to make musical arrangements somewhat often. The structure was also reconfigured into a new reality that had been rebuilt, but not restored, melding into a post-apocalyptic soundtrack that turns into a song with a significant title called "Without God".
This song begins with a violin solo muted by monologues before returning to the Punk vibes previously heard in "Divide". In fact, it is the same song, but in a "garage band" formatted version.

Chatterbox was the side-project of a thrash/punk band known as "The Crucified" who formed in 1994 while guitarist and bassist Jeff Bellew was the link between the two. Chatterbox only released two albums. Despite was released in 1994 as the bands debut. They also released a rare collection of demos known as The Nothing Inside of You in 1999.

It's a real pity that Chatterbox like Diatribe, Argyle Park and COD, was a project of musicians oriented by creativity rather than a long term and lasting commitment, however, there are at times advantages to this unique and short lasting activity. Currently, the musicians who comprised the line up of Chatterbox are members of a band known as Stavesacre.

Musical styles like "Christian Industrial Metal" are able to break into the secular playlist due to a passion and aggression that transcends their underlying message. Artist of this category are most likely unaware that the success of a band carrying itself under the guise of a Zionistic context in this genre is only possible in the United States. It would be called "too controversial" for instance in much of Europe which is still heavily controlled by the Catholic Church. No religious organizations whatsoever would be likely to support any music of this style placing a spiritual connection to their world view due to the heaviness and non-traditional format of its musical content.

(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, 27/06/2010. Proofreading: Scott M. Owens. Must not be used for promotional or commercial purposes. See a Legal Note for the copyrights below)

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