Alec Pollock: vocals/guitar
Peter Marshall: bass/12-string/bass pedals
Jim Marshall: drums
Chasar formed in the otherwise undistinguished Scots town of Alloa around 1981, the Marshall brothers, drummer Jim and bassist Peter finding guitarist/vocalist Alec Pollock, the trio bonding via a shared love of Rush, apparently covering them extensively at early gigs. The band's at least slightly informative website seems to have disappeared, but I'm pretty sure its brief history of the band made reference to their sole album being recorded in two and a half days, which is jaw-dropping. Initially self-released on cassette in 1983, it was advertised via small ads in Sounds weekly music rag, where yours truly discovered it.
Said album, Chasar, despite its slightly demo-ish feel, is an absolute monster, sounding like they'd spent far more time and money on it than they did. The playing is exemplary throughout; frankly, only a very well-rehearsed band of excellent musicians could knock out something this good so quickly. I'm not entirely sure about the chronology, but the band recorded a BBC Friday Rock Show session sometime around the album's original release, featuring one track, The Devil's Revenge, that didn't make the album, although it doesn't quite match up to the quality of the rest of their material. Defining features? Their grasp of Rush-like chord structures, Pollock's incredible guitar tone and Peter Marshall's Moog Taurus pedals, played almost continuously across the album. No, you can not overdo the Taurus.
Destiny: Opening with a gong smash and a huge Taurus rumble, Destiny's intro is a massive statement of intent. The song itself is a propulsive, fairly typically early '80s effort, albeit one tinged with the spectre of Rush, featuring some unexpected key changes and the first of several fluid Pollock solos, overlaid with a semi-sword'n'sorcery lyric. But why does it fade out to an arranged ending?
Visions of Time: The album's first full-on Rushalike, Visions Of Time opens with a lovely acoustic figure, decorated with wind chimes, before upping the ante considerably as the band kicks in, Marshall (P)'s Taurus set to their mid-range for the only time on the album. This really is the dog's: heavy, chorused guitar, more Taurus and Peart-like drumming, the riffs sitting somewhere between 2112 and Hemispheres, nicking several tricks from the Lifeson songbook in the process. WARNING! The major-key arpeggios that constitute the last minute or so of the piece will stick like glue, given the chance. Lyrically, we're still in sword'n'sorcery territory, tackling the subject of immortality this time round.
Deceiver: A more straightforward effort, Deceiver has that early '80s feel again, although quick bursts of Rush chording before and after the solo elevate the track to 'worth hearing' status. Possibly the album's weakest track, it still manages not to let the side down.
Kings: Is this the best thing Chasar ever recorded? Apparently the first song they wrote, Pollock's unusual chord voicings lift a relatively ordinary sequence to godlike status, another acoustic opening leaving the listener unprepared for the cataclysmic main riff, overlaid with a lyric that seems to sit somewhere between Scottish history and Arthurian legend. The acoustic verses utilise the same riff, while the quieter section in the middle has a heavy A Farewell to Kings feel to it, Marshall (J)'s gong getting another outing. Pollock excels himself with his solo, composing a highly memorable effort that, once again, sticks like glue, while the track closes with more gongery. Fuck, this is epic.
Lights: Side two's opener straddles the early '80s metal/late '70s Rush divide once again, Pollock underpinning the major-key verse riff with more acoustic. How the hell did they find time to add that kind of production touch? The song actually improves as it progresses, the closing minute or so sitting firmly in the Rush camp once more.
Gypsy Roller: Vying with Deceiver for 'album's most straightforward track' status, Gypsy Roller, despite its silly lyrics, still manages to get some of that Rush riffery in there, not to mention another ripping Pollock solo.
Underground: The album's longest track takes it time to build up to the song 'proper', managing to sound like nothing else here (relatively, of course); it still gets in some Rushlike riffery, of course, but the second half of the track has a jammed-out element missing from the rest of the album, for better or worse. This is possibly the record's main riff-fest, actually, as the band shift between five or six sections, including variations on earlier parts, although nothing here quite matches up to the glories of Visions Of Time or Kings.
Whew! Something of a rollercoaster ride, Chasar rarely lets up, despite frequent acoustic sections. Already unfashionable in 1983, the band still apparently picked up a devoted local following, even managing to play London (yes, I was there), but were so far out of kilter with that horrible '80s ethos that they had little chance of breaking through, even by the rock-bottom British standards of the time.
The album was picked up for vinyl release in June 1985 by an obscure outfit called American Phonograph (who were clearly British); I know nothing about the label's background, but it seems that dodgy business practices were the order of the day. The band were apparently told that the album had been deleted the following year, although copies were easily available well after this date, while a Belgian release on Mausoleum, retitled Gypsy Roller, also did the rounds for a while, although you can be quite certain that the band never saw a penny from sales.
Meanwhile, the band expanded to a four-piece with a succession of singers, tragically simplifying their approach in a vain attempt to up their popularity; a widely-disseminated radio broadcast of a 1987 festival gig sees precisely one album track, Destiny, left in their set, epic intro cruelly excised. They finally split the following year, although various ex-members continued to work together. A mooted '90s reformation ground to a halt when Peter Marshall was tragically killed in a car accident, although recent years have seen a version of the band playing in Scotland, the current website focussing on photos from recent gigs. What's in their set? No idea, frankly; Scotland's a long way to go to see a band whose (relative) glory years may well be nearly thirty years in the past. Then again, they may play the whole of the album and be well worth seeing. Who knows?
Ludicrously, despite an alleged '90s CD issue of the Gypsy Roller version, the album, despite a worldwide cult fanbase, is entirely unavailable. Surely it's worth the band's while to run up a so-called 'digital' (i.e. downloadable) release? Come on, chaps; your music's too good to fester away on overpriced eBay auctions. If you get the chance to hear this without paying a fortune (I'd imagine it can be found on, er, 'blogs'), do so; you won't regret it.