Friday, June 22, 2012

Chasma - Declaration of the Grand Artificer

Don't call them cascadian black metal.

Even if they kind of sound like it.

Chasma are a 3-piece from Portland. They play a style of psychedelic black metal that will definitely thrill fans of Wolves in the Throne Room or Panopticon, but they blend in elements of shoegaze and post-rock to create an impressionistic blur. The overall effect is like having a flying dream over a gray stony landscape, and the landscape is weeping.

The black metal that has been coming out of the Pacific Northwest lately takes the classic black metal formula, machine gun rhythms and shrieking vomitous vocals, but then adds touches of psychedelic metal, a la Isis. A truly fucking epic sound. It sounds like a person berating God at the foot of a mountain, alone in the wilderness. Its much more emotional, where the original Scandinavians were more psychotic and demonic. Declaration of the Grand Artificer may have a heart, but it also seems elemental. As the Moribund Records website put it, 'Mystical yet emotional, of the earth and yet aiming for the cosmos'.

Declaration was originally released as a 12", and was a scant 33 minutes. This version, however, comes with a bonus track that tacks on an extra 10 minutes, "Dimensions In Lament". Its a good thing, too; this record, and this band in general, work best when you get into their world for a while, let its snowy whiteness wash over you. Get lost in it. Each of the tracks starts off in traditional post-rock fashion, quiet and pretty, but with far-off sounds of suffering. Cacophony quickly takes over, the singer really pukes out the words and the drummer delivers a wall of annihilating percussion. The kick drums could be a little higher and tighter, if they want to achieve the ultimate mind-melt next time around. The guitars stay distant, floating on wings of delay; pretty much clean for the duration. Sounds a lot like Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky, which makes for an interesting hybrid.

Saw these dudes live the other day, as part of the Northwestern Black Circle Fest, (you can read my accounts of those unholy gatherings here, here, and here. They were definitely the youngest and least theatrical of all the metal bands i saw that weekend. Just three skinny, angsty white-boys thrashing away. I was impressed by how barebones and lean it was, and also how taut their performance, slipping effortlessly between climactic post-rock builds, psychotic black metal, and brutal sludge, all with an effortless flip of knee length blond hair. At times, they could be a little close to metalcore for comfort, but this is a common threat amongst a certain age group. Kids that grew up with pop punk and the Dillinger Escape Plan. I was also impressed with how they were attempting to move black metal in different directions, to open it up, and emphasize some of its really psychedelic, visionary qualities. They were also the only representatives i saw of the recent Cascadian scene, which i really like. It sounds like a dark forest at night. Chasma seem colder than that, though, more like a vast tundra. They're trying things out, and they can really fucking play. If you live in Portland, definitely check them out if you get a chance. I've been to so many good shows in the past few weeks its sickening. Thinking a lot about music and writing, so i hope to get busy over here in the upcoming days.

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