HALFORD/TESTAMENT guitarist "Metal" Mike Chlasciak has always been very vocal about his love for '80s/early '90s metal, and the traditional heavy metal influences shine through clearly on his latest release, the first to be issued under the PAINMUSEUM banner.
Musically, this is exactly the kind of stuff you would expect to hear from someone who was raised on a steady diet of ACCEPT, JUDAS PRIEST, LOUDNESS and other influential acts of the pre-"nu"-metal generation. Crunching riffs and plenty of double-bass drumming (courtesy of Chlasciak's HALFORD bandmate, Bobby Jarzombek) are at the forefront of the group's sound, which borrows heavily from the aforementioned acts while injecting a fresh vibe into the proceedings with a more modern, aggressive edge.
As potent as PAINMUSEUM's instrumental musicianship is, the group's efforts are brought down significantly by the vocal contributions of Tim Clayborne. A screamer/growler whose style would be far more suitable in a more extreme band, Clayborne's execution comes across as forced and unnatural — like someone trying too hard to sound "brutal," even when the accompanying music calls for a more subdued, melodic vocal approach.
Unsurprisingly, my personal favorite moments on this CD happen to be the ones that see Clayborne breaking away from his schtick and incorporating more dynamics into his vocal delivery. "Live and Die" and "Bloody Wings" both feature stand-out melodic choruses that offer a glimpse of what could have been —a breath of fresh air compared to the one-dimensional screaming/growling that dominates much of the rest of the album.
For a debut CD, "Metal For Life" is certainly a respectable, albeit far from spectacular, effort. As much as Chlasciak and his bandmates are to be commended for their sincerity and undeniable musical abilities, this time around the whole has unfortunately turned out to be smaller than the sum of its parts.