I want to go and throw a stick in Portland Oregon and see how many musicians I can knock out. Prolific is the word and those playing black metal are no exception. I could write a big list starting at Agalloch and carry on but it would be boring and I’m sure you get the point anyway, the scene there is sprawling. This brings me to recent Candlelight signees Chasma whose third album Omega Theorian follows on swiftly from last year’s Moribund release Codex Constellatia. Apparently the band have proved popular on stage playing with a veritable horde of talent from Wolves In The Throne Room though to Fell Voices and Junius and although they are new to me I had a preconceived idea of what sort of musical modus operandi to expect.
This was completely knocked out of orbit as soon as I pressed play to the extent that I thought the label were playing some sort of trick and had uploaded the wrong files for review. Most bands playing black metal like to start off with either some sort of pompous (and some may say unnecessary) instrumental set up or throw the listener straight into a heaving, turgid mass of sound. Not so with this lot! ‘The Emblazement’ is as odd as its ungrammatical title with shoegaze mood and warbling female vocals which move into an elfin Siouxsie sounding enchanting gothic rapture. The singer is un-credited in the notes I have but I was in a word spellbound and set up for more. A shame really as it was her sole performance and as the album moves into ‘Cathedral Of Luminaries’ it begins to sprawl out much more in the fashion I would have expected. A rough and raw tumult builds up as the drums batter and flutter in, bruising with guitars layered up and strumming as fast and furiously. Vocals are equally raw and rasp along and we are now in a dense mass of layered sound. Venom and spite are conveyed in the vocals and it sounds pretty damn hateful. There’s a brooding sense of melody but it has that overriding windswept feel about it with some rather strange guitar contortions being wrung out within the heaving mass.
As the album continues it is full of raging fury but there are moments where tools are downed and it is left for reflective acoustic moments to fill in the gap. These are incredibly funereal and evocative with tortured vocal screams adding to the despair and adding an air of abandonment before the next flattening tempest comes back to level things again. This gives the tracks which are generally between the 7 and 9 minute mark room to breathe and immerse the listener within their depths as well as set them up for the next battering and it’s due to this that Chasma ultimately succeed by applying some much needed atmospheric space in their otherwise attacking stance. There is a big Cascadian feel to this sharing alongside the aforementioned Wolves a mood and feel found within the likes of Velnias, Woman Is The Earth and Panopticon and although I admit to being quite dismissive of this on first listen after the surprising opening segment this has certainly grown on me with repeated listens.
This is not an album to dissect in fact listening to it as I do when I review, I have said everything you really need to know about it before I have arrived at the half way mark. It’s very much an album to play and just go with the flow as it takes you through moments of abject gloom and despair before sending you plummeting down the next chasm(a) and plummeting into the abyss.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)