(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Chrome Waves, which is set for release on September 25th by Disorder Recordings.)
So far in 2020 there have not been more than a handful of black metal releases that have inspired me to put them in heavy rotation. The sub-genre of depressive black metal has become even more scarce in terms of quality. I find this odd because 2020 has begged for bleaker, darker music. I know I can plug DSBM into the search bar of Bandcamp and find an abundance of poorly programmed drum machines under thin over-processed guitar tones.
This is what makes Chrome Waves‘ new album such a treasure. It sounds great and is as dark and melancholy as I might want when I am taking my meds.
Given their last string of EPs and singles I did not know what to expect from this second album. More Nick Cave covers? Nope, it’s black metal. Not only black metal, but a vision of it that is not stuck on blast-beats and offers moody melodies. As the atmosphere thickens you can call it blackgaze, though unlike many bands described as such the intention behind it feels more mean-spirited.
The first song (“Hallow Dreams”) made it evident they had tapped into a sound, but the question became whether their songwriting from this point could hold my attention. The second song (“Gazing Into Oblivion”) was not a huge departure from what they opened with, perhaps a half shade less depressive. It was evident that they do still care about writing songs.
An example of what makes a band metal lies in the vocals found on “New Skin”. The hazy sung vocals show that if they were instead screamed it would have given them more of a Deafheaven feel (in saying this I stand by the times when I have argued that some of Deafheaven’s albums are not metal). To their credit they do throw in punchy accents that are heavier than what your average shoegaze band would attempt.
This more ethereal path is pursued further, though in a darker manner, on “Spoonfed”. With the subject matter being heroin, there is a more realist grimness to the mood. If this song had been about fucking nuns in graveyards, it would have come across as trying to wear a cartoonish parody of the appropriated Satanic imagery that in 2020 does not hold the same weight. This is not to say I am not 100 percent behind deflowering nuns in cemeteries, but it’s more of a friendly fetish than heroin, which never brings out the best in people and leads to a more miserable existence than death. So much more depressing. I want more of that from black metal and less Lord of the Rings.
The ten-minute title track that brings things to a close pretty much encompasses all the things I love about depressive black metal. This album sounds great and the mix gives the gloom the perfect amount of breathing room. My only complaint is that this album seems like it is shorter than it is. I get to the last song and think, is that all we get? It might be only six songs but still clocks in at a little over forty minutes of music.
If you are a fan of these guys or just miss the kind of miserable moods Nachtmystium used to conjure, then this album is without a doubt going to be what you are wanting. If you have tired of riding around with ring wraiths in Mordor and want something more grounded in reality, then this is also worth your time, if you are open to these guys not sticking within the confines of black metal and continuing their exploration of other sonic pastures.