All too often we approach new music with preconceived ideas either from previous encounters with a band, media hype or a press release. However, on this occasion I listened to Chrome Waves with absolutely no knowledge of the band and no idea of what to expect, saving my research until after I had made my mind up about the music. I no idea about the post-black masterpiece that I was about to experience.
The album opens with ‘Burdened’ and a pensive acoustic section which soon gives way to an abrasive assault straddling the boundary between black and post metal, before the vocals effortlessly morph into clean melodies. This interplay between the two styles works well on the backdrop of melodic harmonies making it hard to pigeon hole but perhaps giving it an overall feel of atmospheric black metal along the lines of Agalloch. Further jousting between the vocal styles and melodic interludes build this track into an epic beast that takes several listens to fully appreciate.
‘Past the lights’ opens with a melodious intro which sits atop a solid rhythm section building the pace before the harsh vocals add another layer, until clean vocals once again provide stark contrast, with the two vocal styles synergistically feeding off each other’s energy. The track closes with rumbling white noise allowing the mood to settle before the next track.
This rumble leads into the colossal title track as a string section soon joins, setting a sombre tone. Melancholic melody soon follows before post metal style howls shatter the calm. Clean vocals once more follow on, almost soothing and calming between the angst of the recurrent anguished screams. The harsh vocals have definite primacy in this track, and whenever the clean vocals take the lead they are quickly crushed but the contrast is very effective.
There is a change of pace on ‘Predatory animals’ with a more upbeat start and the track almost has a punky, black ’n’ roll feel to it as it gallops along.
Normal service is resumed with ‘Take Another Sip’ and its post black metal melodies. A subtle vocal line with a slightly unusual drum accompaniment creates a melancholic atmosphere before the vocals become more prominent as the track becomes more oppressive. Another melodic interlude with strings lifts the pressure initially but this brooding passage soon becomes oppressive in its own right building until the harsh vocals once more complete the aural claustrophobia.
The final track ‘Open Casket’ opens with a cello section. Rhythm guitar soon adds another layer in hypnotic fashion until tormented howls join the fold initially shattering the hypnosis but later becoming part of it.
It was clear to me early on that this release is head and shoulders above many of its peers, and when I did some research into the band it became clear why. Chrome Waves was formed in 2010 and its membership lists current or previous membership with bands such as Nachtmystium, Abigail Williams, Amiensus and Wolvhammer amongst others. With this pedigree, something special was always going to be on the cards.
This album is dense and crushing while being epic and melodic. It is an exhausting listen but worthy of your attention but be prepared to commit yourself to its murky depths to appreciate it fully.
(9/10 Andy Pountney)