Album Title: Where Chaos Thrives
Label: Mighty Music
Date of Release: 19 May 2023
‘Hmm…that looks like an interesting, strangely alluring cover’, I thought whilst flicking through the mountain of promos sent my way of late. ‘For fans of The Black Dahlia Murder, Carcass, Children Of Bodom, Revocation’, I then read. ‘Consider my interest piqued’, I said to no-one in particular, before taking a listen. And now, a few days later, here I am committing my thoughts to paper.
As decisions go, taking a punt on this hitherto unknown name based solely on the cover artwork, was not my worst. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it has paid off handsomely for me, although it did mean a mad scramble to do my pre-review research. What I discovered was that Chronicle is a Danish quartet, comprised of guitarist/vocalist Lars Bo Nepper, guitarist Sebastian Skousgaard, bassist/vocalist Jacob Wammen, and drummer Jari S. Holopainen. The band was first formed back in 2012, with ‘Where Chaos Thrives’ being their third full-length studio release. Having not heard of this band or their music before, I can only conclude that this record offers a marked step forward to what went before, because I’m pretty sure I’d have paid more attention if the last two outings sounded anything like this.
I’m not entirely sure that I get the Children Of Bodom reference in the press release, unless it’s solely to do with the fact that both bands have growled vocals, guitar flamboyance, and some melody, because that’s about it in terms of parallels as far as I can hear. But the other references are pretty accurate, even if it is fair to say that Chronicle have a genuine smidge of uniqueness to them that makes them hard to properly liken to anyone else. There are plenty of bands that play technical thrash, melodic death metal, or techdeath. But, there aren’t that many that can lay claim to blending the whole lot together. Or, at least, there aren’t many that have been as successful at it as this young four-piece. Not that I can think of, anyway. Darkane spring to mind but, beyond that, I’m struggling a little.
Anyway, enough of my aimless pondering, because I have a review to write about this excellent record. And there’s no better place to start than at the very beginning, and the opening track, ‘Usher The End’. Beginning with a gentle acoustic intro, I love the way in which the melody is both instantly beautiful and ominous, before being blown to smithereens in the blink of an eye. You expect the onslaught, but even so, the immediate power still hits you like a truck, as we’re suddenly transported to the eye of the storm. Surrounded by blistering drumming and satisfyingly interesting and audible bass work, dextrous riffing, flamboyant flourishes, technicality and gruff vocals full of menace, it’s an intense affair. Initially, it’s a little tricky to get your bearings, but once familiar with the song, out come the lurking melodies, and the subtleties that make this such an exhilarating listening experience. The final, slower closing passage dials up the melody a touch, ending the song on a real high.
Once your breath is caught, you realise just how good the production is, too. Everything is clear, with a very good separation, whilst none of the strength or power of the music is lost in the pursuit of clarity. Mind you, at the hands of Tue Madsen, what else could you really expect? In particular, it’s the drums that most catch my ear; not only is the playing of a very high standard, every strike jumps out of the speakers with a delicious crispness and meaty thud, depending on what Holopainen is striking at any given time.
‘Evolution In Reverse’ continues the excellence, albeit as a shorter, thrashier, even more direct composition. There are less fripperies on offer, but the song is intense and immediately catchy, thanks to a strong chorus and memorable lead lines that add the melody nicely. We also get a quasi-breakdown too, where the riffs are beefed up and slowed slightly, but again, this variety just enhances rather than detracting in any way whatsoever.
I’m really enamoured by ‘The Black Tide’ too, which is incredibly catchy, whilst also offering some of the most diverse riffing on the album – just about everything from mid-tempo thrash to fast black metal makes an appearance, all topped off by the almost power metal melodic vibrancy of the chorus and effervescent lead line. There’s also a great dual guitar harmony section, with resonant bass accompaniment which I love.
I could talk about every single song on the record to be honest, from the oppressive, heavy chug of ‘Vestigial’ or ‘Horror Unearthed’ that kicks off with an intro that has a touch of Spanish flamenco about it before bludgeoning the listener into complete submission.
However, I could not allow the opportunity to pass and not discuss my absolute favourite song on the album, namely ‘Life Erasure’. For the first 45 seconds, it pulls me to my knees with an utterly magnificent melody. It’s simple in comparison to what’s gone before, but it’s incredibly effective and addictive. I’m a sucker for these layered, epic-sounding melodies and this song delivers in spades. The bulk of the song returns to the more familiar modus operandi of Chronicle, with dexterity and technicality abundant, especially in the lead guitar department which wail and cry at points. But the key weapon at Chronicle’s disposal, is their real knack of writing interesting, engaging songs that keep us entertained throughout. The latter stages sees the most expressive bass playing on the record, and then the melody returns in a big way, starting with a killer lead solo and ending with a brief reprise of the opening.
It falls to the title track to close out ‘Where Chaos Thrives’, which is yet another tour-de-force of technicality, dark brutality, bludgeoning heaviness, and well-placed melody. At nearly eight minutes in length, it’s the longest track on the record, but makes use of that extended run-time by exploring different tempos, different textures, and in so doing, finishes the album in rather imperious fashion. In fact, if truth be told, this whole album is rather imperious and it stands in the very upper echelons of all of the technical melodic extreme metal I have heard during 2023 so far, maybe even longer. Do not let this pass you by.
The Score of Much Metal: 91%