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23 Link Chain - "I'm All In" (CD)

23 Link Chain - "I'm All In" CD cover image

"I'm All In" track listing:

1. Pull
2. Pressure
3. Loyalty
4. Totem Pole
5. What
6. Checkmate
7. Seven Days
8. I'm All In
9. Again
10. Hangover
11. Get Back In The Car

Reviewed by on July 27, 2009

"The title track, 'I'm All In,' is a splendid little toe-tapper in which Mr. J's hoarse vocals seem appropriate — especially in the chorus, which sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a soccer riot."

I'm metal through and through, but sometimes there's nothing like the raw fury of punk rock to get the blood pumping. "I'm All In" by 23 Link Chain has plenty of energy, with a funk edge that's appealing in a Primus kind of way — but there are also some pretty mediocre vocals to deal with that often pull the listener right out of the song.

The star of this show is undoubtedly Shannon Graham, who lays down some fierce bass grooves that would do her stated influences Flea, Les Claypool, and Bootsy Collins proud. The album's opener, "Pull," and its third track, "Loyalty," are my favorites in terms of funky sound, but Graham shows off her chops well on other tracks as well.

The drummer, H, does a good job of alternating between funk and fury, but sometimes can be a smidgen overpowering.

The guitarist, known as Mr. J, has a good sense of when to be the lead instrument, and when to surrender that role to Graham's bass. He also plays a mean solo on "Totem Pole."

Unfortunately, Mr. J's vocals are quite mediocre. Everything's delivered in a hoarse, gravelly shout — even when the funky sounds don't call for it. Take for example "Loyalty," in which he's shouting over a bass groove. It almost sounds like Lemmy fronting the Red Hot Chili Peppers or something.

That said, there are quite a few moments in this album where everything clicks together. The title track, "I'm All In," is a splendid little toe-tapper in which Mr. J's hoarse vocals seem appropriate — especially in the chorus, which sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a soccer riot. The more metal-sounding "Get Back In The Car" is also a winner.

For the bass-playing alone, this disc is definitely worth a listen for punk fans with a taste for funk. Still, the mediocre vocals on many of the tracks make "I'm All In" less than a safe bet for me.

Highs: Shannon Graham's fantastic funk bass; the title track, "I'm All In" features the band working on all cylinders.

Lows: Mr. J's vocals are often mediocre at best.

Bottom line: An OK album that could've been great with a better singer.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)