Debut albums are very important. One day when your band has built up a fan-base, people usually come back to your first album when your newer ones suck. So needless to say, it is pivotal to construct something respectable that might be hailed in the future. American trio Chasma are fairly new to the scene, having only released a demo in 2009, but they’re now releasing their first full-length Declarations of the Grand Artificer. Clocking in at a modest 32:33 with three songs, this wasn’t going to be the most accessible black metal record.
I would probably classify them within the DSBM [depressive suicidal black metal, for the n00bs and uninitiated – AMG] side of things, which is not the easiest style to pull off. “Daystar Angelwar” begins with a painful-sounding sample that gives you an idea of where the mindset it at. This record is all about anguish, unfortunately the riffs don’t hold my interest for long enough and the intention gets a bit muddled. The tempo changes are quite frequent, with the odd break in blasting producing some fairly soporific attempts to express melancholy. When I listen to the song as a whole, I am left feeling quite indifferent. This is largely due to the fact that the guitar work just isn’t as effective as it should be when trying to invoke feelings of gloom, the sort of thing bands like Agalloch or Alcest excel at, but unfortunately Chasma falls quite short of the mark.
The vocals are quite torturous and desperate, sometimes he does get it right… other times not so much. He tries everything from screeching to singing and moaning, but often times it makes him sound a bit like a very unhappy metalcore kid. The second track “Shadowbend” starts with guitar-picking of the simplest caliber and an attempt to create some kind of atmosphere. But the vocals here were irritating and the stylistically it just left me bored instead of enthralled. The same formula replayed with even less impact than the previous track, that is, moments of softer post-rock influenced melodies that launch into blast beats and yelping. Very few surprises here, I’m afraid.
On the production side of things, Declarations of the Grand Artificer sounds a bit obnoxious and hollow to these ears. There is something lacking here, I don’t think there is enough emphasis on making the instruments stand out. I also found myself suffering from a headache as I turned the volume up. This has nothing to do with the sound being too raw or filthy; I quite enjoy low-fi production. It’s mainly because the pitch is way too tinny and does your speakers a disservice.
There are plenty of other worthy DSBM acts out there [Gris, Nyktalgia, Lifelover etc.] that get it right. The difference is that it feels like Chasma are still learning their craft and Declarations of the Grand Artificer doesn’t contribute anything new. There’s just a general sense that what we’re hearing here has already been done before by others… and better at that. Moribund records is quite a respectable label, but they seemed to have signed these guys based on hype and not much else. Go look at most of the other reviews scattered across the net. You’ll find quite a few reviewers worshiping the pants of these guys. Well I don’t get it, and that’s what I’m sticking with. [THE SCENE DEMANDS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, POSEUR! – AMG]