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Declarations of the Grand Artificer - 71%

SmithMetal84, February 26th, 2012

Chasma are among those bands that are really hit and miss for me, and probably for most other people as well. You go in expecting one thing and the end result is one which was not anticipated; this is what happens with Chasma. Their DSBM style makes use of the typical attributes of the genre, i.e. long, dragging songs in which not that much of note happens. The first band that comes to mind when listening to Chasma will probably almost always be Burzum, especially albums like "Filosofem" where repetition is key to its success; yet with Chasma, one could argue that it’s their biggest detriment.

As previously stated, Chasma’s fatal flaw is drawn-out and superfluous use of repetition and slow, somewhat droll passages that are intended to put the listener in a passive, wistful state, which they don‘t exactly succeed in doing. They don’t give off this particular vibe, however, right when the album starts, because it starts off on a relatively faster note, with blast beats in the background and faster riffing. Very soon after, though, they delve into what is to become the biggest aspect of the album, with a dissonant, eerie and slow riff; the drums also slow and combining tom hits with the ride to generate a more powerful yet calm effect. The harrowing, utterly maddened vocals (very akin to Burzum, again) immediately meet the listener and create a wave of sorrow and grief. The vocals are indeed quite depressing and they pull them off well, but they don’t fully make up for the monotony that Chasma put so much into play with their somber and repetitive riffing.

There are lots of segments throughout the album that leave the guitars to be playing cleaner passages, alone in the foreground, with tom hits going on in the drum section and usually whispered vocals. This can be seen at 3:37 in the first track, and this particularly depressing, melancholic riff is to be subsequently played for a ridiculous amount of time. While at first it may seem fresh and appealing, it greatly hurts their music to repeat riffs like these for so long. The rest of the album is dominated by alternations of these two styles, that of slower passages being far more prevalent. Tremolo-picking is a rarity, although it is seen scarcely throughout, and I wish they would’ve used more of it to uplift their usually boring riffing. Some of the riffs are somewhat interesting and will hook the listener for a decent amount of time, but where many other albums of a similar style succeed in putting the listener into a hypnotic trance, Chasma are just short of achieving this, and unfortunately they don’t pull it off.

Overall, it is not an absolutely horrible album but nor is it a great one. There are only three tracks in total, adding up to a sum of thirty minutes. There isn’t very much variation in these three tracks and their overlong repetition of certain riffs greatly hurts their music. Their style of black metal is one that has been seen before in bands like Burzum, but they don’t cast a very impacting effect and the listener is left feeling somewhat empty after the long, tiring journey of DSBM finally subsides. Definitely recommended for passionate fans of this style of black metal, but unfortunately, it is merely a decent album, just short of mediocre.

Originally written for

Settling for the sediment - 60%

autothrall, November 22nd, 2011

Chasma is a duo out of Oregon, its members having worked together concurrently in several other bands, including an equally obscure Northwest sludge farm Nanda Devi. With this particular project, they perform a turbulent brand of black metal involving simple, lengthy compositions and a lot of repetition intended to send the listeners into a trance that they become easier pray for the wretched, predatory rasp of the vocalist. They also incorporate bridges with cleaner, introspective guitars, distorted bass strums and building, warlike percussion, so that the decidedly swollen girth of the songs doesn't become treacherously monotonous. Think Burzum if it were infused with a bit of the post-black aesthetic of US bands like Cobalt, Ash Borer or Castevet, and you're in the right ballpark.

Declarations of the Grand Artificer contains only three tracks, but as hinted above, they're rather extensive. "Daystar Angelwar" is inaugurated with a stream of horrified screams before the momentous rush of guitars and blast beats approaches, yet in under a minute it's already transformed into the cleaner, melancholic guitar passages which allow more space for the vocals to induce their torment. Then it's pretty much a process of moving back and forth from these two emotional climes, like an anti-depressant addict in and out of his latest fix. "Shadowbend" is the least swarthy of the tracks, and it brings out a bit more of the members' sludge influences through the first few minutes, with broiling bass-lines. At around 4:00, the band breaks out this noisy, wailing tremolo guitar sequence which seethes with a sort of drifting, shoegazing style that I found to be one of the highlights of the album. Lastly comes "Blue Jewel Destruction", the longest piece, which returns to that passive/aggressive technique of calms and explosions that, frankly, feels a little played out.

It's a little difficult to place Chasma upon a qualitative threshold, because while this is by no means a bad album, it had almost no effect upon me emotionally. In this way, it reminds me even more of some of the US contemporaries I mentioned earlier. The duo know their way around their instruments, the vocals, but there really aren't any breakout guitar riffs of note with the possible exception of that one line in "Shadowbend", which distinguishes itself primarily for how easily it launches above the roiling mass below. They're certainly not short on translating personal angst and agony with the vocals, but then, they too are never all that interesting, just the same, familiar bludgeoning screams we've heard from many in the wake of Burzum. Also, despite the fluctuations the songs take between more aggressive and sad sentiments, they never seem worthy of supporting their girth, and so even though the entire album clocks at under 33 minutes, the components can grow exhausting individually. Despite the relative density of its suicidal darkness Declarations... is just not compelling in the end.