Chrome Division — Norway’s answer to hellbent-for-leather biker rock ‘n’ roll — began life as a side project of sorts, as individual members broke away from their main bands to bash out some straight-ahead metal.
But the “side project” has now grown into a monster of its own — which suits bassist Bjorn Luna just fine.
“I came to a point where I was getting very tired of slow song-making. It takes a lot of your time and a lot of your strength,” Luna said, during a marathon day of interview calls to promote Chrome Division’s latest high-octane blast, “Booze, Broads And Beelzebub” (Nuclear Blast).
“It’s better to let it all out, that feeling, and hear the result immediately,” Luna said. “I’ve chosen to focus on Chrome Division.”
As the name suggests, “Booze, Broads and Beelzebub” is a full-speed celebration of sex, sin and whiskey shots — which might seem surprising to some, when the lineup includes Shagrath (the corpse-painted, acid-spitting lead singer of symphonic black metal demons Dimmu Borgir) and Luna, who was best known before Chrome Division for his work with gothic, doom-infused “Gregorian metal” of Ashes to Ashes.
Despite the pedigree in blackness, Chrome Division are not dabbling idly in Motorheaded rock ‘n’ roll. Shagrath and Ricky Black slash out the power chords like Angus and Malcolm on speed, Luna and drummer Tony White lay down a speeding beat and vocalist Eddie Guz (of the Carburetors) barks out tales of bad men, wicked women, loud engines and broken bottles of beer, with a voice that sounds permanently coarsened by years of bourbon, cigarettes and shouting over roaring engines.
For Luna, the change from goth metal to grab-em-by-the-throat rock ‘n’ roll was just the switch he wanted when he joined Chrome Division in 2004.
“I think in the beginning when you start a band, you have to try to see if it works out,” Luna said. “This is something we had talked about for a long time when we were out drinking. I said to Shagrath, ‘how about doing something that’s less complicated and more fun?’”
By the time Luna joined the band, Shagrath and drummer Lex Icon had been jamming as Chrome Division for about five years. It was Luna who asked Eddie Guz to lend his throat to the mix. Black signed on as lead guitar, Lex Icon departed and Minas Tirith drummer White climbed aboard, and the band released it’s first gut punch, “Doomsday Rock ‘N Roll” in 2006.
From the opening guitar growl and Guz’s” blistered-throat “Gittup!” on “Doomsday’s” first single “Serial Killer,” it was obvious the boys of Chrome Division meant business.
“We started out as having the goal of a single,” Luna said. “I think the song writing went so well a single was out of the question. I think from then on it was evident we were going to continue on, because it felt so right.”
When asked if the satisfaction he receives from CD is different from what he experienced in Ashes to Ashes, Luna said, “it’s a completely different world.”
“It’s another way of thinking about music,” he said. “(With) Ashes to Ashes, there are long songs with complicated structures … and instruments on top of each other. The song structures of Chrome Division are a very simple way of doing it — verse, chorus, verse.”
While the songs are much more stripped down than the music of Ashes to Ashes or Dimmu Borgir, Luna said the apparent simplicity of the structures can be deceiving.
“Even though the music seems very easy to make, we try to make the music as good as possible and the choruses as good as possible,” Luna said. In most cases, the band refines its songs for months before they’re ready for the recording studio.
“We can jam a song together in one rehearsal … but the song writing takes more time than people have the impression in the beginning.”
“Booze, Broads and Beelzebub” is a fun blast of dirty, sleazy rock, from the hell-raising title track to stompers like “Hate This Town,” “Let’s Hear It” and the mammoth blues-thrash of “Doomsday Rider.” While the Motorhead, ZZ Top and Rev. Horton Heat influences are certainly embedded in the songs, there are also twining melodies that suggest just the faintest cross-pollination with black metal guitar.
The band took a chance on the album, and paid tribute to one of Luna’s idols, by recording their on take on ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.”
“I’m a big fan of ZZ Top and I’ve always been,” Luna said. “That was my first concert. I went in 1986, the ‘Afterburner’ tour. I was listening to (’Sharp Dressed Man’) in my car one day and I thought, ‘how cool this song could by with a more powerful sound.’”
While the cover song is a homage, Luna said it was important to refashion the song in their own style.
“There’s no reason for making a cover that completely like the original,” Luna said. “I like the original, of course and I like listening to it, but it’s cool to have a (version) that’s different from the original.”
Although Dimmu Borgir is busy on tour, there is some talk of a Chrome Division U.S. sprint some time in the winter, Luna said. But for now, the plans are little more than just talk.
For a band that spins yarns of steel horses, hangovers, beer hall brawls and wild women, the individual members don’t try to constantly live that life, Luna said.
“To be honest, we’re in our 30s and not drinking 24-7,” Luna said. “We like to drink and have a good time, and when the chance comes we try to have that kind of life, but it’s not like when you’re 18 or 20 years old.”
But just because they don’t party every day like there’s no tomorrow, they still want to celebrate all that booze and sin have to offer, Luna said.
“We’re all a little bit settled down, but we’re still attracted by this life,” he said. “When you write rock ‘n’ roll music, the only thing that matters is bringing forth that lifestyle.”
To listen, visit www.myspace.com/chromedivision
Or watch the video for “Serial Killer” from “Doomsday Rock ‘N Roll”