CD Review by CJSS for “2-4-1”

Since the early 1980s, I’ve been an obsessive hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector. I’m in if it has a good guitar riff and attitude.

Cover of the 2006 Lion Music reissue

“2-4-1,” CJSS

(World Gone Mad and Praise the Loud reissued on one CD)

Leviathan Records released the album in 1986.

Leviathan Records (USA), Pavement Music (Europe), and Lion Music (Finland) reissued the album in 1999, 2000, and 2006.

There are 18 tracks in total, with a total run time of 75:15 minutes.

CJSS was a Cincinnati, Ohio-based heavy metal band that didn’t last long, but they left an indelible mark on the mid-’80s metal scene. Over the next two decades, Chastain’s own long-running band, led by warrior-woman vocalist Leather Leone, would release a string of albums, while the CJSS albums gained cult status among shred-guitar aficionados and underground metal fans. CJSS, best known for featuring guitarist David T. Chastain, released two well-received studio albums in the same year—World Gone Mad in 1986 and Praise the Loud in 1987—before abruptly disbanding.

Chastain re-released both albums on a single CD in 1999 via his own Leviathan Records label, under the new title 2-4-1 (get it? ), in response to repeated requests for a reissue of the CJSS material.

I’d somehow missed out on CJSS back in 1986, but I really liked what I heard on the reissue, and the material is still as heavy and majestic as ever. 2-4-1 was reissued by Finland’s Lion Music in 2006, and it was then that I first heard this classic pairing.

“Hell on Earth” is a phrase that means “hell on Earth.”

The Music

Russel Jinkens (vocals), Les Sharp (drums), and Mike Skimmerhorn (bass) were the other letters in “CJSS.” Chastain was the “C” in “CJSS.” The foursome’s melodic but heavy sound combined vintage Judas Priest’s leather and studs nastiness with Van Halen’s anthemic, party-hearty shred-guitar style.

With heaps of crunchy power chords and thunderous drums, killer anthems like “No Man’s Land,” “Out of Control,” and “Don’t Play With Fire” have irresistible choruses and hooks to spare. It’s easier for me to choose favorite tracks because I think of it all as one long album. Russell Jinkins’ clear, confident delivery is reminiscent of L.A. Guns’ Phil Lewis, and his wails ably anchor CJSS’ musical mayhem. I’ve never been able to decide whether I prefer World Gone Mad or Praise the Loud because I’ve never owned the discs separately, only as part of the 2-4-1 combo platter.

There was a healthy scene of bands like CJSS, Steeler, Lizzy Borden, Fifth Angel, and Malice (to name a few) waving the flag for traditional, melodic, straight up heavy metal for a small but appreciative audience. CJSS were equally adept at high-speed burners and ominous, crunching metal tracks like “Welcome to Damnation” and the epic length “The Bargain,” as well as rallying cries like “METAL TOTALLY RULES, DUUUUDES!” Add in a cover of a classic rock song (an absolutely barn-burning rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown”) and an instrumental for Chastain to show off his chops (“Thunder and Lightning”), and 2-4-1 becomes a time capsule of the state of the American metal scene in 1986.

“Praise the Lord” is a phrase that means “praise the Lord loudly.”

What Has Been Happening to CJSS?

While running his own Leviathan Records label, he has released a number of solo albums and contributed to projects such as Southern Gentlemen, Zanister, and Counterpoint. Does he ever go to bed? Since the breakup of CJSS, David Chastain has been the most visible member; his eponymous band has released nearly a dozen studio albums, the most recent of which (We Bleed Metal) was released in 2015.

I’ve only heard a few of the 7 Hills songs on YouTube, but they seem to pick up right where World Gone Mad and Praise the Loud left off, so it’s worth looking into further! Apart from the 2012 release of The 7 Hills Demo, a collection of remastered, previously unreleased tracks (presumably intended for a third studio album) recorded in the mid-’80s, the CJSS camp has been silent since then. Chastain reunited with Jinkins, Skimmerhorn, and Sharp for Kings of the World, a new CJSS album, in 2000.

Covers from Leviathan Records (1999) and Pavement Records (1999).

BeFunky provided the collage.

Additional Listening

Old-timers can upgrade their worn-out vinyl or cassette copies once more, while newcomers who have never heard CJSS can find out what all the fuss is about. In 2020, the old-school metal specialist label Divebomb Records reissued both World Gone Mad and Praise the Loud (separately). These “Deluxe Editions” have been fully remastered and include four bonus tracks on each album.

World Gone Mad and Praise the Loud are essential listening for fans and collectors of classic underground US metal, regardless of which package you choose!

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