Fall of Stasis – The Chronophagist Review

Extreme music and cheer have an uneasy relationship. Power metal is generally expected to be upbeat and not take itself too seriously, but when the growls and screams enter the building, such attitudes are wont to leap out the window. Death and black metal are serious business, dammit! Except when they’re not, and examples abound of bands that embrace both the dark and the light. At first glance, Fall of Stasis seem to be the serious sort. A faux Old English logo, a grim apocalyptic cover, and a title that literally means ‘the time eater.’ But is it all as dark as it seems?

Not at all! Fall of Stasis play melodic blackened death that reminds me at different turns of Aether Realm and Aephanemer. The atmospheric intro teases a circus waltz, and such festive cabaretesque inflections serve as a guide throughout the album, sometimes as more of an undercurrent (opener proper “Fall of Stasis”), sometimes more overt (“Twilight Carnival,” the most on-the-clown’s-nose title in the setlist). In the former case, the cheer is more in the highly melodic lead guitars, racing through wide varieties of hooks and solos at breakneck speed. The latter case sees the keys stepping further forward, adding extra layers of atmosphere to an environment that is rather crowded as-is.

Because one thing The Chronophagist doesn’t have much of is an attention span. The band rarely seems content to linger on any one style too long, down through every layer of the songs. The primary vocal style is a harsh blackened scream, but they tune down into growls multiple times per track, and clean ‘band of warriors’ style vocals are applied liberally. While these frequent shifts occur in the upper layer, the lead and rhythm guitars often exchange duties with the keyboards, which themselves oscillate between carnival and medieval fair, and variations on a hook or a riff start popping up the moment its base is established. On top of that, the pacing is a rollercoaster in and of itself, regularly interrupting another high-speed assault for a quick eye of the storm.

If all this sounds exhausting, well, you’re not wrong. If you like your metal structured and methodical, Fall of Stasis will sound like a hodgepodge. But it does manage to work as an album in spite of its insanity. The songwriting shifts wildly and constantly, but there’s just enough structure to hold on by way of choruses, most of which are catchy enough to serve as linchpins that pull the tracks together (“Swarm of Casualties” is an especially strong example). As the performances are universally strong, especially the guitars, the pacing and style veering left and right is always executed with tight expertise. The album is certainly never boring; this is a band that seems to have too many ideas rather than too few, and considering the quality of the hooks, they are generally good ideas. But it does make for an album that’s not always too memorable. Some of the stronger material remains recognizable, but the music often moves on too quickly to really stick in the brain. Coupled with a production that has insufficient breathing room, it does make me glaze over by the end of the album.

For all its flaws, though, The Chronophagist is a solid and entertaining debut. It’s unfocused and hurried, but both are caused by over-enthusiasm rather than ineptitude, and that spirit can be felt throughout the album. It is, in a word, plain good fun, and if you don’t remember all of it afterwards, it feels more like an excuse to spin it again than a fundamental flaw. The upbeat guitars, the great hooks and the relentless energy are infectious to the point where it’s easy to forgive the kitchen-sink mentality, and I have the feeling that this album as a starting point is going to age very well. Fall of Stasis has a bright future ahead.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: fallofstasis.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/fallofstasis
Releases Worldwide: February 25th, 2022

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