Yes, it’s French and it’s “avant-garde.” Again. Fortunately, when four-piece Chaos Echœs is concerned, that description isn’t a bad thing. Unlike some of their disappointing compatriots, these guys are the real deal. Transient is this avant-garde death metal band’s first official full-length album, released after four years of activity and following several impressive EPs that gave us a taste of things to come. And what has finally arrived is something that will not be to everyone’s liking. Transient is not an easy listen. In fact, I suspect it might be highly divisive, as often is the case with forward-looking and convention-bending music. It’s complex, challenging, and difficult to grasp, but all the more rewarding when finally understood.
The fundamental building blocks of Chaos Echœs’ style have all been heard before: twisted long riffs and tremolos, moody quiet passages, chanting, slow tempos, and dissonance. It’s the way in which these elements are pastiched into a unique mosaic that makes Transient a powerful work with aptly cradled, philosophically vibrant metaphysical themes. Motionless, ritualistic, discordant, and even malevolent… There are many words that apply and yet none of them can quite encompass all the grandeur of the atmosphere on the record. Each listen might reveal some new emotion or thought. While the intensity, the conceptual nature of the music, and the way the tunes transition into one another require this to be listened to as a whole, there are some recurring traits featured in almost all songs.
The opening “Senses of the Nonexistent” progresses from ambient sounds, sparse bells, and shuffling guitar riffs to chants and roaming drones ingrained with heaviness. Several layers of buzzsaw-guitars, excruciatingly slow tempo changes, buildups and slowdowns, and coiling bass all combine to create a sense of dread, hollowness, and disquiet. A dichotomy of subtlety and harshness is often employed. Further proving that this isn’t your typical death metal is the fact that the first traces of growling come at 25 minutes in on the third track “Advent of My Genesis,” which ends up as a sonic maelstrom of psychedelia-infused death metal and rolling rhythms. That track’s ending alongside the tremolo and blast-beat driven cuts “Kyôrakushugi” and “Soul Ruiner” show a band which can be quite dynamic when required. All of this subtle chaos brewing under the surface is surrounded and interrupted by ambient pieces called “Interzones,” occult and abstract liturgies made to be such by spoken word passages, organs, weird instruments, brush strokes on the drums, and distorted, buzzing strings.
As mentioned in the promotional blurb, death metal comes naturally to the band. They expand upon the genre instead of just cannibalizing and desecrating it. Still, while this is indeed a deconstructed form of death metal, it’s hard to resist associating their approach with other genres or even other art forms. For example, the general temperament and personality found in the material, as well as the structures of the songs, evoke the punk-jazz of John Zorn’s Moonchild (The Last Judgment) or the power electronics/noise of Theologian (Pain of the Saints). Similarly, the themes, aesthetic values, and frame of mind might make Transient the perfect companion and soundtrack for some deranged movie like Guy Maddin’s Brand upon the Brain! or the backdrop to the grime and naturalism of Émile Zola’s novel Germinal. Then again, maybe the film for this music hasn’t been made yet.
All in all, the artwork, production, and level of musicianship just add to the feeling of completeness and attention to the detail. The artwork, made by the band’s bassist Stefan Thanneur, is absolutely magnificent and manages to masterfully capture the philosophical foundations that I’ve mentioned earlier. The production, with such rich dynamics, and the really good mastering are just the cherry on top of this dark flavoured cake.
While not revolutionary in any way and with still much remaining to be explored and sublimated, this is nonetheless very good stuff by an exciting band. With such a promising and well-thought out début, I can’t wait to hear what Chaos Echœs have in store for the future. Transient comes highly recommended to all adventurous listeners in search of the next weird thing.