Review: The Chasm – A Conscious Creation from the Isolated Domain – Phase I
Death metal legends The Chasm have been annihilating and beguiling eardrums for some twenty-five years now, always held steady by the rock-solid musicianship of founding members Daniel Corchado and Antonio León. After a long eight-year wait, The Chasm is back with a new full length album, which, to the horror of unsuspecting fans that missed an earlier statement that any new The Chasm music wouldn’t feature vocals, is entirely instrumental. As a huge fan of the band’s previous instrumentals (as a matter of fact, I even have a playlist of them), I was excited for the newest development in the long-running band’s sound; after all, there’s not much in the way of good instrumental death metal, and if I want to hear Corchado’s growling, I have a lot of back catalog to listen to between The Chasm’s previous material, his work with Cenotaph, and his work with Incantation.
Getting past the obvious selling (or breaking, for some listeners) point of the instrumental nature of the album, A Conscious Creation from the Isolated Domain – Phase I is immediately apparent as a natural continuation of the sound that the The Chasm guys have been working on for years; leads battle over a variety of interesting rhythms, all in Corchado’s singularly unique personal melodic style (best heard either in the later The Chasm albums or in the two Acerus albums), occasionally syncing up in a harmony but just as often frenetically bouncing away from any instrumental root. The guitars sometimes play (seemingly) unrelated leads, held together only by the bass and drumming; while at first listen, the jumps from idea to idea can seem random, there’s always an instrument (be it guitar or bass) building to a transition or to a gorgeous peak. The way that Corchado layers guitar parts is inspiring as hell; it’s not often that I’ve heard it done quite so well in any sort of extreme metal.
The battling guitarwork suits the completely instrumental nature of the album in a way that vocals might suit something written to have them; one guitar can serve as the rhythmic base while the other launches into a fascinating bit of technical mastery, and when they come together, it’s to serve as a ground to launch off of into new places. Subtle electronic effects add on atmosphere in opportune places if you listen closely enough but never overwhelm the main instrumentation, serving only to add to the journey of the album.
Though the album is fundamentally an exercise in the creation of interesting guitar-centric music, León’s drumming is incredibly impressive as well; simple and workmanlike where it needs to but jumping in with rapid-fire fills when a bit of percussive insanity seemed necessary. The drumming really holds together the otherwise sometimes over the top leaps that the album makes, providing exactly the right support to make the album work despite being both very long and without the benefit of vocals to help differentiate various parts of a given song.
As a final note on the actual songwriting, the album’s length is broken up a bit by the fact that it was segmented into four distinct chunks, referred to by the band as “chapters,” each with their own slightly different sonic flavor. Though I’ll leave it up to listeners to explore the album for themselves rather than going through each part individually, calling it a “journey” is really the most fitting way to describe the album. A Conscious Creation from the Isolated Domain – Phase I is a new height for the band, an intensely ambitious display of the songwriting and instrumental skill that they’ve built over the decades. This is an album that’s too dense and complex for casual listening- I would definitely recommend sitting down with a set of nice headphones and losing yourself to The Chasm.
Listen to the new album on their bandcamp, support them by buying the CD (or something else) from their web store here, and follow them on Facebook here.
All images from The Chasm.