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Creepmime > Chiaroscuro > Reviews
Creepmime - Chiaroscuro

Lights & Shadows Dance on a Shape-Shifting Canvas - 94%

bayern, March 19th, 2017

The Dutch thrash/death metal scene felt quite at home in the early-90’s since it woke up relatively late for any exploits, and kind of missed the golden times. With the exception of Mandator (earlier Mysto Dysto), Leader and Pestilence no other band managed to put themselves on the map as an official releaser within the 80’s timeframes. Even the pioneers Vulture had to wait till 1990 in order to see themselves with a full-length.

Anyway, entered the new decade, and Holland filled up with young budding practitioners who rushed to catch the last train to classic metal stardom: Thanatos, Usurper, Donor, Sacrosanct, Dead Head, Altered Moves Two, Decision D, Rhadamantys, Creepmime... this train liked it so much in these Netherlands that it took a prolonged break, and stayed there all the way to the mid-90’s, also making regular visitations in the neighbours Germany where another similar old school revival was stirred. The Dutch fraternity has always had their eyes on the more technical/progressive side of the metal spectre, and our friends here were no exception to this unwritten rule. They started as a doom/death metal band siding with the exploits of Asphyx, Beyond Belief, and Orphanage, and their debut “Shadows“ (1993) remains one of the finest achievements in this sphere. The doom/death metal hybrid seemed like it would be spared by the newly established metal rules, but the guys had other plans regarding their future development.

After the debut’s release the band lost Jaco Voorzaad, a talented guitar player who went onto founding the already mentioned progressive thrash/death one-album-wonder Rhadamantys (“Labyrinth of Thoughts”, 1995) and the classic death metal formation Constant Paranoia (still active). However, the band mainman Andy Judd continued unperturbed and soon found able replacements for the creation of the album reviewed here. This opus also saw the band taking a turn towards progressive/technical thrash/death leaving their doomy roots “lurking” in the background. It’s all for the better as this is one of the undisputable masterpieces of the whole Dutch metal scene, a truly original piece of music that embraces several styles creating a compelling diverse “melting pot”. “The Colour Still Unwinds” has an initially pacifying intro which creates a lot of atmosphere the latter staying around even when the schizoid weird riff-patterns invade the aether reminding of Coroner, blending “Mental Vortex” with “Grin” on a sterile modern “canvas”; adventurous music also reminiscent of the French Aleister’s “Tribal-Tech”, and the Americans Psychopath's “Making the Transition” and the demos after it. “Scarlet Man” marches onward with mechanical robotic rhythms with even more outlandish riffage which keeps a steady mid-pace the gruff death metal vocals leading the show with panache coming as a more aggressive version of Ron Royce (Coroner again). “In the Flesh” begins in a quiet brooding fashion, but what follows is the most dynamic moments on the album as well as the finest lead sections which provide more lyrical, melodic respite the resultant combination a marvellous listen worthy of the already mentioned “Mental Vortex”.

“Clarity” serves 3.5-min of stylish technical “clarity” the guys producing a true wonder of modern complex thrash with the surreal aura and the intricate spiral-like riffs with echoes of Aftermath’s masterful “Eyes of Tomorrow”. “Diced” tries to “dice” and “slice” through another more serene inauguration until it reaches elaborate serpentine arrangements and twisted melodic motifs the latter culminating in a fever-pitch feast mid-way before a balladic interlude puts an end to this pure music magic. The title-track is a progressive saga with a jarring, jumpy beginning which transforms into a doomy passage ala the debut both sides “chasing” each other throughout the ensuing drama soothed by an exquisite lead section although the more dynamic formulas return for a hectic nervy finale. “Black Widower” “flirts” with atonal melodic variations before the band embark on another less ordinary “adventure” this one clinging more towards the atmospheric progressive side with stronger echoes of “Grin” also enhanced by the dazzling melodic leads. “Fools’ Paradise” sticks with the progressive atmospherics and the enchanting lead sections for the establishment of more peaceful environment, paving the way for “King of Misrule”, a laid-back more orthodox progressiver; and “God’s Thoughts” which is a jumpy quasi-doomster leaving the technical histrionics behind.

Although the ending may be a bit of a pullback the guys taking it easy on the complexity, this effort makes sure to keep the listener hooked with the total lack of predictability and the abundance of class that had almost completely faded away from the scene by the mid-90’s with the influx of the much more direct, stripped-down groovy/aggro approach. It’s a shining example of how a band could considerably alter their initial delivery and sound equally as convincing, if not even better. It provided a template that was never explored by the often cited here Swiss masters bridging the speculative gap between their last two albums in a really tantalizing manner providing the more dynamic and the more intricate analogue to their “grinning” opus. It concluded an era in Dutch metal at a time when most of the technical outfits had either disbanded, or had changed their approach to more or less suit the new vogues. It was a last outcry of an eventful, defiant five-year period that saw a lot of great works borne and released, even if often just for the isolated “fuck you” salute at the groovy/aggro charade.

It was over and out for the majority of the underground resistance by the mid-90’s, and our heroes neither had any intentions on prolonging the agony of the old school nor on surrendering to the 90’s audience’s tastes. The bass player Joost van der Graaf felt restless, though, and carried on with his endeavours in the metal underground in the new millennium by taking part in the modern thrash/deathsters Cypher, the technical brutal death metal cohort I Chaos, and the German stalwarts Dew-Scented. He’s keeping himself quite busy probably to compensate for his comrades’ inactivity which could be put an end with another musical tribute to the enlightened “shadowy” legacy of Van Gogh and Rembrandt.

So Much More Tasteful Than Most Tech. Death Metal - 75%

DeadMuse, July 8th, 2016

To begin, I must state that this release is closer to technical than progressive death metal; perhaps, this label held true for Creepmime's previous material, but not so much here. There aren't any of the usual progressive trappings--voluminous compositions, exotic instruments, pervasive synths, etc.--featured on Chiaroscuro. Yes, there are a few atmospheric introductions here and there, but those are basically ornamental. This is technical death metal in the classic sense: metrically interesting rhythms, nuanced note choices and exceptionally precise performances--definitely far removed from the "oh let's see how many notes I can insert into a measure"-attitude that all too many contemporary tech. death guitarists have.

So, considering this is classic-style technical death metal, it's unsurprising that the beginning of the first track, "The Colour Still Unwinds" should be somewhat reminiscent of Death's "Lack of Comprehension". Still, Creepmime's use of subtly jazz-inspired clean guitar played over a very supple and melodic bassline is, to my ear, even more elegantly used than Death ever managed. Nevertheless, Creepmime obviously had their dues to pay, because Andy Judd's somewhat shrilly, mid-range rasp is very reminiscent of Chuck Schuldiner's vocals. This is basically where the influence of Death on Creepmime ends, and, in my opinion, it's for the better. While Schuldiner was an incomparable soloist, I've often found many of his riffs to be uninspired, pedal-based fare. Andy Judd and Aad Giezen, however, weren't afraid to take a thicker, more chord-based approach--don't worry, they don't use many power chords!--to their riffage which led to their creating many memorable though complex rhythms. "God's Thoughts", after a thematically appropriate though somewhat tedious atmospheric intro, features some of the very best and most tightly executed syncopation to be found on this record. "In the Flesh" is another good example of how Creepmime's guitarists resorted more to a skewed sense of rhythm to showcase their technicality as opposed to simply shredding their fretboards to pieces. This brings up another point which reinforces the difference between most classic and contemporary technical death metal: There isn't a damn solo on every song. I suppose this could also speak of the guitarists' preferences, but their conservative use of lead guitar-work is, to me, yet more proof of just how tasteful this band was.

I suppose the main reason I'm not giving this album a perfect score is the issue of originality; this album does sound a good deal like mid-career Death and, with the slightly eerie atmosphere of such tracks as "God's Thoughts", perhaps also Spheres-era Pestilence. But even though Chiaroscuro isn't the most unique offering of death metal, it sure could teach a lot, to contemporary tech. death guitarists, about the value of quality over quantity, nuance over nonsense.