CASSLE (s/t) CD
Due to the excellent archaeological work of Shadow Kingdom Records, people have now the chance to discover the short-lived U.S. band CASSLE. During their period of existence, CASSLE has only released the 'Midnight Fantasy' picture 7" via Azra Records before they split-up in 1983. The EP 'Midnight Fantasy' was supposed to be released shortly after the single but there have been problems with Azra and, as mentioned earlier, the band passed away. In cases such as these, it is clear that the picture 7" has become a rarity. This immediately raises the question if it was really necessary to dig out the band - as for me, I can answer this question in the affirmative. Of course the Shadow Kingdom Records' re-issue contains a mass of bonus material. That starts with the authorized four tracks of the 'Midnight Fantasy' EP and includes three unreleased studio tracks as well as two live tracks. All this is supplemented with the original version of 'Midnight Fantasy' which has been recorded in 1980 under the band's previous name MIRAAJ. Anyone familiar with Shadow Kingdom Records will be aware that most of the booklets are very comprehensive (liner notes, lyrics, rare photos), and in this regard CASSLE is no exception.
But what about the music? Well, it is immediately noticeable that CASSLE were strongly inspired by the spirit of 1970's hardrock but that should not come as a surprise because their roots date back to the very late 1970's. Also the strong progressive tendencies allow for conclusions concerning the same decade and the listener literally feels how much the band is interested in experimentation and trying things out. That does not however mean that CASSLE confront you with some kind of free-form jazz improvisation, so don't worry. It is furthermore noticeable that the N.W.O.B.H.M. has left its mark on a couple of songs, but all that is just another segment of their individual sound.
To me, the first four tracks are among my favorites on this disc. You can hear a well functioning band that was aware of their musical direction, in which there was enough room for heavy riffs (where Tony Iommi would be proud of) and dreamy passages. In doing this, the keyboards play a not to be underestimated role as well as singer Brett Hollomon whose clear, expressive vocal style is perfectly suited to the music. Sometimes he is more like a storyteller than a vocalist, but that helps to reinforce the unreal, mystical atmosphere of the 'Midnight Fantasy' EP.
In addition CASSLE is able to write gorgeous and expressive melody lines, as exemplified by 'My New Flame' where they impressively demonstrate their talent to combine different parts to one whole story. 'Revenge (Cassle Walls)' is another great track that has been refined with a exceptionally heavy Sabbath-esque mid-section. Again Scott Parker's amazing guitar work shines on this song, because he also has a knack for playing a catchy guitar solo at the right moment without overdoing it. This is followed by three studio cuts, of which I would particularly like to draw attention to the wonderful ballad 'Someone Stole My Love Tonight'. Normally, I don't like cheesy stuff like this, but that is really a heartfelt song. In contrast, 'The Ringmaster' is the only low point of the compilation due to its frequent comedic element. The live tracks have, as expected, a rough quality but are nonetheless a powerful document of CASSLE's live qualities. Unlike the studio recordings, the overall sound is more aggressive and reveals another side of their multifaceted heavy sound. All told, this a great compilation of an almost forgotten band. If you have an insatiable appetite for progressive/metal-tinged 1970's hardrock, which is able to take the listener away into an inspiring musical world than you should notice CASSLE.