Remains – Chaos & Light Review

Remains - Chaos & Light 01Besides being death metal from Sweden, Swe-death evokes two specific things when mentioned. The first, and most popular, is the style of production — and more specifically, guitar tone — that makes something jump out as Swe-death to the person digitally strolling by on streaming services. The second is the style of composition, which in part revolves around a speed taken from crust punk and melodicism heavily influenced by horror scores. Combined, this production and composition style make an immediately recognizable sound. Creative types may see two distinct possibilities here: first, to take the production sound of Swe-death and apply it to something else — Carnal Tomb did a great job of this on Abhorrent Veneration. The second is the opposite — apply a production sound that isn’t driven by the HM-2 pedal and play Swe-death through it. As you might guess, Remains does the second option.

Like Carnal Tomb keeping the horror-themed melodicism, Remains doesn’t uproot their Swe-death influence. The production sounds like what would have happened if Tomas Skogsberg and Scott Burns collaborated and took it easy on the chainsaw tone, getting the dry precision of Burns and the heft and appealing roughness of Skogsberg. The band’s influences should be obvious from the cover — the logo screams Dismember, and the prevalence of blue reminds one of Left Hand Path. It’s a chillier blue though, which fits with the Swedish black metal once removed element of their sound, which seems to be culled from Sarcasm. Remains is from Mexico, which makes their sound uprooted from Sweden in a fundamental way — this is what makes them interesting. Put another way, this can’t be a pure Swe-death record because it’s a death metal record from Mexico.

This suits Remains well, as a song like “Undead Ones” is interesting because it explores offshoots of Swe-death to add another limb-sprout to the evergrowing tree. It playfully morphs a Swe-death melody into something closer to a more dissonant Sarcasm and back again with enough skill and tact that it’s hard to notice at first blush; Remains skills as songwriters allow transitions to flow well and happen in a way that what comes to pass isn’t predictable but natural. The pummeling “Death Sick” anchors the riffing style of early Dismember to the burly grooves of Clandestine without leaving the horror melodicism by the wayside, integrating everything so that there isn’t a “part” of each that would divide the song up from being enjoyed as a cohesive whole. In other words, Remains avoids standout parts in favor of standout wholes, a device that yields no standout “singles” but a complete, satiating album.

Remains - Chaos & Light 02

Remains sounds energetic on Chaos & Light, with each instrument working in tandem to maximize the effectiveness of what a song is doing at any given moment. When “Refuse” needs to thrash, the drums stay firmly in the pocket and keep the fills to quick ones in the last measure. “Evoke” begins on a riff that recurs later for the sole purpose of building a bit of tension before the blasting begins, only to ratchet it down and then dial it up again using similar steps, although the compositional path chosen has an extra couple of steps added in for good measure. It’s this type of songwriting – one which invites analysis and enjoyment — that makes a quality record.

Most of my review has been spent describing things Remains have done on Chaos & Light. What this suggests to me is that Remains is doing things musically here which are interesting in and of themselves and are better heard than described. As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding; Remains makes some hearty pudding. The only apparent flaws with the record lie in the peculiar way it ends. “The Threshold” is the last proper track, and it’s up to the task with riffs that understand the importance of a closer. When it draws to its close, everything fades out and lets the bass play a riff unaccompanied. With everything working in tandem as it did throughout the record, this is discomforting in the wrong way. “After Seeing the Light” follows, an instrumental that adds nothing to the record but eighty-one seconds. Notwithstanding this bizarre finale, Remains have crafted a solid death metal record here that is indebted to Swe-death but pays its own way too. Chaos & Light is ideal for fans of the genre and those who think it’s stagnant — it’s a display of high quality and creativity in a familiar form.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: MAT Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 8th, 2019

« »