The Chasm – A Conscious Creation From The Isolated Domain: Phase I (2017)

The most pertinent conjecture in the lead-up to this fully instrumental The Chasm album was how freedom from the vocal straitjacket would affect songwriting. Surely, not having to make provision for vocal spots would, or ought to, give songs more room to breathe and to evolve in their own time? While all metal is constrained by a somewhat rigid adherence to repeating bars and measures, and though death metal in particular goes some distance in escaping the verse-chorus norms dictated by vocal considerations, it remained to be seen what an underground metal album written without the “distraction” of a singer’s ego would sound like.

In many ways, The Chasm are the ideal band to attempt this venture because of how panoramic and wide-canvased their sound is. Impressionistically and structurally, by necessity even of meeting their lofty cosmic themes, this music occupies the higher musical registers; unafraid of treating solemn, minor key melody as the core stylistic device, The Chasm play riffs in chiefly two flavors: in a syncopated, speed metal manner, and as twin guitar harmony. Regular interplay between these two attributes and the choice in note and phrasing so peculiar unto this band make this album full of detail for the listener. But is all of it relevant?

An opinion I’ve heard voiced is that the band have gone overboard in terms of transitions and general textural density. It is a fair criticism; this album misses the focused development of earlier works and in particular the binding, bookending memorability of Farseeing The Paranormal Abysm. It raises an interesting question, too: does metal then actually need vocals as a form of anchoring force, without which even the best intentions are liable to lose themselves in a dance of excess? Was the intention behind the instrumental nature of this album simply to be rid of an encumbrance, or was writing itself to be altered, at least as visualized in the mind?

On present evidence, the writing has indeed changed, but not as longtime fans would’ve hoped. Far worse, however, is that while instantly identifiable as The Chasm, A Conscious Creation From The Isolated Domain carries little of the abstract, mystical air that have made this band’s music a thing of almost sacred virtue in the underground; redoubtable of integrity and ideal though The Chasm remain, this will still be acknowledged as the band’s most tired-sounding album.

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6 Responses to The Chasm – A Conscious Creation From The Isolated Domain: Phase I (2017)

  1. P.B. says:

    It must say something about how much of an irrational fan of The Chasm that I am that I don’t entirely disagree with you on this one, yet I still think it’s still the best album of the year.

    I don’t think it’s their weakest album, or their most tired (that would be The Spell of Retribution, which gets mired in speed metal and Dissection-clone cliches), but it’s certainly not as good as Deathcult, Conjuration, or Farseeing. I feel that the criticism that it’s trying to cover too much ground and, as such, nothing gets enough time to stick or create an identity for any individual track is valid, and while repeat listens ameliorate this a bit, I can’t say it’s as memorable or distinct as their previous high points.

    But still… despite the flaws, it’s still an intensely dark piece of music in the way that no other band is. There’s still material that stands out here — the rhythmic aggression of 2, or that one triumphant melody of 6 come to mind.

    And, what might be most exciting of all is how The Chasm have always been an “every other album” band. One album explores a new direction, next album perfects it. From The Lost Years was ambitious but a bit directionless; focusing it leads to Deathcult. The speed metal additions to Procession left that album a bit lacking in impact; this was rectified in Conjuration. The improved production and technical prowess of Retribution was brought to full force on Farseeing. So, one has to wonder…what could follow up CC?

  2. Deathcult says:

    Another irrational fan of The Chasm, I disagree with this review. I think this is an album that requires multiple listens across months, if not years, to fully absorb. It’s a true journey, and I’ve been transported by it every single time I’ve put it on. It’s not an easy listen and one should put it on only when one really has the time to focus on it. It’s far, far away from being tired-sounding.

  3. Deathcult says:

    Also, I don’t think The Chasm ever suffered from a “vocal straitjacket”. Corchado often roared over the music at what he felt were appropriate moments, rather than the strict rhythmic vocal phrasing of most bands, and that added to the ineffability of the band.

  4. I feel it wears thin after you’re done ‘Revisiting The Temple’. The first half is regalvanizing alright; I remember hearing the preview and being blown away because they were doing certain things they’d never done before. Arpeggiated textures, such a huge part of their arsenal, were far more subdued than on previous album; instead you had a cutthroat riffing style that I don’t think has been heard since Deathcult. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite last through the remainder.

    P.B., always glad to put up your take if interested. Deathcult, too.

    • Deathcult says:

      On the contrary, it’s a highly calculated record. The slow change from primal ferocity to contemplation and introspection is the tale told by the album, and it contains some of Corchado’s stranger ideas and playing yet seen. The cutthroat riffing as you name it is not supposed to last forever. This is the change that the composer, the album and the listener went through or have to go through to get to the end of the record. This seems to me to be The Chasm’s most consciously sculpted record, relying as much on a fine eye to detail and crafting, as on otherworldly inspiration.

      • Deathcult says:

        Revisiting the Temple is a fine trilogy, but my favourite pieces on the album right now are probably Crater and Mind Domain Substance Layer. Absolutely fantastic transitional sets. I’ll try and send you a review of the album soon.

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