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Looking back period in metal’s history, there was indeed a time when the extreme styles of death and thrash metal were not too dissimilar. Mind you, one style may have had a bit more of a fascination with disfiguring and killing things, but the styles were fundamentally similar; raw, aggressive and scarcely interested in appealing to anyone’s softer side. Nowadays, thrash and death have each evolved into their own distinctively separate identities, but the common DNA makes for a willing pair. Enter Chaos Synopsis, a quartet from Brazil that combines the two styles seamlessly. Add a striking concept and the merits of modern production, and you have “Art of Killing”, an album that should have thrash and gore lovers reeling alike.
As the album title may suggest, Chaos Synopsis are fairly interested with death- specifically when it occurs at the hands of another. Mixed in with audible influences from Sepultura, Bay-area thrash and old school death metal, serial killers are the album’s greatest inspiration. With the exception of the instrumental title track, each song on the album is dedicated to a different famous serial killer. The gruesome “Vampire of Hanover” is included here, as well as the famous “Zodiac”, the prolific “Monster of the Andes” and nightmarish “Demon Midwife”. Although the lyrics don’t betray any masterful grasp of the English language, it is clear that the band has done their homework here. Serial killers from around the world are present, including one fictional entity- the “Bay Harbour Butcher” from television’s “Dexter”.
Chaos Synopsis do a very good job of melding the death and thrash styles together. Although the thrashier component is arguably more important, the speedy riffs and headbang-worthy grooves are jolted with an extra sense of aggression and artillery that you wouldn’t normally hear in the style. Above anything else, Chaos Synopsis excel at the science of the thrash riff. Although there is nothing of a “Reign in Blood” or “Holy Wars” calibre to behold, each of these serial killer stories is scored with a satisfying inventory of aggressive riffs. Less impressive are the vocals of frontman and bassist Jairo Vaz. Although his vocals are by no means poor or weak, they aren’t nearly distinctive enough to leave an impression. At best, he sounds like an echo of Chuck Schuldiner. At worst, his grizzled shout sounds like something I might hear on a metalcore album. Regardless, on the performance end of the album (vocals included), there isn’t a single poor element. Art of Killing”s bleak subject matter may have been better suited for a rawer production, but the refined recording allows for the band’s technical skill to be relished in full.
Although Chaos Synopsis take good care to make their riffs engaging and heavy, there’s often the sense that “Art of Killing” is missing something that would have made it a much more satisfying experience. This speculation is acknowledged and realized with the closing title track, an epic instrumental that throws away the common thrash conventions for something unexpected and near-cinematic in its quality. After nine songs of very samey material, Chaos Synopsis almost seem to venture into progressive metal territory. Acoustic guitars, slide guitars, and a freaking violin all get tossed into the six minutes, and the effect is brilliant. Although “Art of Killing” is a technically proficient record throughout, it seems that the band decided to wait until the last possible song to show what they are fully capable of. Although it leaves the album off on a remarkably sound note, I cannot help but feel that “Art of Killing” was a bit of a lost opportunity. Things sound great, but if there had been more of that kind of variety on the album, there’s no doubt that it would have resulted in something even better.
From the performance end, Chaos Synopsis are excellent, and although it would have been nice to hear some more varied and dynamic songwriting from them, “Art of Killing” has a vicious style befitting the concept.