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For some reason, Australian bands have been lately surprising me. Perhaps it's just me, because I seem to be in a spree of discovering bands from that country, but there's always something interesting in the prog-related genres there. I've been recently listening to alternative "proggy" rock bands, such as Karnivool and The Butterfly Effect, and I'm finding this band to share some aspects in their music.
I remembered Chaos Divine for being yet another mediocre melodic death metal band that tried too hard to sound "extreme", often grazing core elements. This album is far from that and they decided to leave the MDM approach and move towards a more progressive metal sound retaining some "extreme" metal elements which are often compromised of growls and occasional heavier riffing. The basic formula is simple, yet effective.
Vocals seem to be the biggest improvement. I'd say it's 85% clean vocals and 15% growls, and some songs don't have growls at all. They are definitely emotional and fit songs perfectly, yet there are some minor weak parts here and there, but I think the singer is definitely improving his clean vocals. Growls are a nice break from all the clean stuff and seem to be in the right spots. Diction is crystal clear, and this is another factor I'm finding in common with other Australian bands (and I sure as hell can't understand an Aussie speaking, so it's not that the accent is the reason). I really like his vocal work in "Silence" and "No Road Home (Solastalgia)" (listen to the harmonization in this song!, for example, during the verse that starts with "desperate, clutching straws")
The guitar work is a blend of simple, typical alternative rock riffs and some moderate technical playing which often resembles progressive metal bands like Dream Theater (e.g.: "Silence"). They are often placed in the background, yet still define each song, but suddenly you are hit by a very catchy riff, making a song stand out from the rest. An example of this is "Beautiful Abyss" at 03:30. Some melodies do remind me of MDM bands, like Scar Symmetry (the aforementioned song's main theme is a good example). Again, "No Road Home (Solastalgia)" features the best guitar compositions of the album and it's one of the few songs that has a solo.
Drum work is quite good too, but it is not the band's strongest component. While the drummer seems to be rock solid (at least in the studio, and I do know that the mixer can fix mistakes), I can't seem to remember fills or drum patterns that were outstanding. I do like what he did in my favorite song, "No Road Home (Solastalgia)", especially during the intro that's written in a complex time signature. Unfortunately, this is the only song in which I remember the drum work for standing out.
Finally, production is perfect, total up to today's standards. I'm not surprised as this was mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren, a celebrity when talking about audio engineers. There's not much else to say about this: it's clear, it's heavy, each instrument can be properly heard, vocal and keyboard arrangements are sweet… the man is a genius.
To close up, I think that all songs are well balanced. The album starts great and follows nicely (track 2 reminds me of Be'lakor and Insomnium on some parts), with some decrement in quality on tracks 3 and 4, rising up again on tracks 5 and 6. There's a dive on track 7, which I think could have been left out of this album. It is definitely the most try-hard song of the album and kind of fails at doing so. The next track is slightly better, but I'm not really liking the vocals. Fortunately the last song makes you easily forget about this and closes up the album magnificently. It's definitely the best track and I hope they focus on its songwriting for their next efforts.
• 1. One Door
• 4. Chasing Shadows
• 9. No Road Home (Solastalgia): my absolute favorite!
The Human Connection is the second full-length album from Chaos Divine, a five-piece progressive death metal band based out of Australia. Not only does this record showcase a stunning growth from their previous work, but it reminds us just how evocative metal can really be. The record, while undoubtedly progressive, remains firmly-rooted in metal, and has plenty to offer in the fields of epic riffs, proficient drumming, melodic solos, and destructive vocals; the real beauty of The Human Connection is in what else it has to offer. Let’s see what we have to gain.
The vocals are absolutely killer, both harsh and clean, and the reason why is actually really simple; the band doesn’t treat them any less or more importantly than they deserve to be treated. The biggest thing bands get wrong with their vocals is that they overproduce them; in most cases, this doesn’t need to be done. The vocals on The Human Connection are a fantastic example of how to mesh them with the rest of the mix – there’s never a point on the album where the vocals sound out of place. They might not be perfect, but they never sound like they’re somewhere they shouldn’t be, and they never sound too powerful or too frail. What really brings the vocals to life is how well they’re delivered; Dave Anderton’s clean voice is impeccable, showcasing true vocal talent without feeling contrived. Don’t get me wrong – he’s no Rob Halford. Anderton stands on his own feet, though, with his own range of melodic and evocative cleans. The guy also delivers fantastic middle-pitch screams that genuinely sound good, and while the harsh vocals don’t appear as often as I’d like them to, they really elevate the band’s strength to a new level.
The guitars are just another special treat for listeners, as the band is nowhere near shy about employing fast-paced solos, proficient leads, and melodic passages. The dual-guitarist dynamic brings out an emotion that I haven’t heard from instrumentation for a long, long while. Don’t let that confuse you, though; the Aussies have plenty of powerful moments to offer with their guitars, be they high-octane leading moments or any of the band’s faster solos. While the guitars are the main source of melody within the band’s instrumentation, Chaos Divine additionally offers a plethora of technically-proficient riffs. The sound of the guitarwork itself would be comparable with jazz/death fusions like Atheist, if you were listening to it at half speed, but can also be just as fast as bands like Death and just as powerful and enthralling as bands like Skid Row. It’s quite the combination, but it works – and I think that’s the most important aspect of the entire band. They work.
Boy, do they work. The drumming was the real upset for me; not because it was poorly-crafted, but because it completed the slower pacing that can be found on a good half of this record. The Human Connection is still undoubtedly a progressive metal album, but the drum tracks really got to me, likely because I just wasn’t used to the speed (or lack thereof, if you prefer). It took me a while, but I adjusted, and I can appreciate the skill it takes to pull off the variations that this drummer does. There are powerful drum moments that come a dime a dozen in the rest of death metal, but there are also plenty of mid-paced sections that still have a lot going on. I’m no expert on drums, but anyone can listen closely enough and tell that there’s more arm movements in these fills than there are in about forty per-cent of deathcore acts combined. Granted, the album’s running time is also about twice as long, so… Whatever.
The bass is probably the most overlooked aspect of The Human Connection, but it does its absolute best to support the rest of the band – and a little more. While you can hear it audibly when the vocals aren’t sounding off, the basswork really shines during the guitar leads, serving as a sonic ‘white space’ as it were. Your brain will pick up on it even when you don’t consciously acknowledge it, and I can’t help but wonder if that was the band’s true goal. If so, someone tell them to get the fuck out of my head. (I’m really not kidding about that. I’ve had half of the songs on this album stuck in my head for a good week now, so much so that they mesh together at some parts.)
Ultimately, the Australian five-piece has delivered a sonic adventure. It’s exciting; it has its fast moments, it has its slow moments, but no matter what part of the album you’re listening to, you’ll wonder what’s coming next. That goes for the final track on the record, too. After such an incredible, phenomenal release that’s filled to the brim with evocative instrumentation and emotional vocals, I can’t help but wonder what exactly will come next from Chaos Divine. From now on, though, they’d better have a stellar reputation preceding them – they were reviewed by me, after all – and that reputation is the one they’ll have to live up to when their next album drops. For now, enjoy what they’ve got to offer – a nearly-impeccable release. Cheers.
2.) “At the Ringing of the Siren”
7.) “Invert Evolution”
9.) “No Road Home (Solastalgia)”