Making strides in production and songwriting quality between the band’s first two albums, CHMCL STR8JCKT seems to have settled into a rather comfortable groove that resonates throughout this third outing. With John Bechdel once again in the producer’s chair, and the band now based in both Texas and New Jersey, things seems rowdier than ever; across the 14 tracks that encompass DRK PRGRSSNS, the band adheres to the stylings of late ‘80s and early ‘90s industrial/rock, with a decidedly primal and at times sleazy permeating throughout.
For instance, a track like “Wrecking Machine” is a pure stripper pole-dancer in the best possible way as the funky bass lines and strutting disco beats offset by lyrics that ooze sin and smarm, complete with the irresistible simplicity of Mike Cairoli’s chugging guitar and Kevin Snell’s distorted vocals, just reek of the influence of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. The same can be said for the ring-around-the-rosey rocker that is “Harpy,” its whimsically demented fairytale lyrics of “Her fondness is quite keen for liver, hearts, and spleen” sure to bring a wicked smile to many a rivethead’s face, or “Destroyer,” which feels like the musical equivalent of a grindhouse flick, Ian Omega’s stomping beat and the the punchy guitar both mechanical and a bit maniacal as the chorus adds a dramatic background vocal that is almost vaudevillian. Furthermore, the rather flippant juxtaposition of spirituality and sexuality seems to ooze through “Sacred Rope,” the tribal rhythms and squelches of synth offset by lyrics like “riding crop and rope” and “I’ll be your sacrament and dope.” On the other hand, the vocal cadence and steely synth passages on “Death of Lucille” is almost right out of the Revolting Cocks playbook, which goes well with the MINISTRY-esque force of the anthemic “Texas,” the song’s whipcracks and John Gaetcher’s slide guitar helping to evoke the bigger-than-life rebel attitude of the lone star state. And then there’s “Syrinx Is Gone,” which in this writer’s mind sounds like it could’ve appeared on Blue Öyster Cult’s Fire of Unknown Origin with lines like “I have come to save you from the king,” with EVA-X’s Gaby Marie lending her vocals to help make for an epic song best heard by a warm fire on a moonlit evening otherwise dominated by wolf howls. Even the closing track of “Somber Town” is perfectly placed, the overall vibe of huffing vocal and guitar riffs sounding like the end of a long party dreading the inevitable hangover, which comes in the form of a hurdy gurdy, performed by Dracula Factory’s Christopher Padula.
DRK PRGRSSNS is far from a perfect album, for although well produced and performed, some tracks like “1911,” “Chosen One,” or even the spirited but ultimately unsatisfactory cover of The Police’s “Invisible Sun” fail to strike the same measure of venomous power that even a short punky romp like “Gonna Die” can. And then there are the three remixes of tracks from 2019’s WRTCHD THNGS to conclude the album, which seem somewhat out of place here; they make for a fine set of bonus tracks, but perhaps would’ve been better served appearing on a separate remix EP. However, the pros ultimately outweigh the cons on this album, and it is easy to tell that the musicians are enjoying themselves through every moment of DRK PRGRSSNS. This along with Bechdel’s production savvy helps to make this third album from CHMCL STR8JCKT a worthwhile entry in the band’s discography, as well as that of modern machine-driven rock.