All the way back in 2010, former members of Wolvhammer, The Gates Of Slumber, and Amiensus formed Chrome Waves, but a focus on other projects meant that the band sat firmly on the backburner for many years with just one EP and a few singles to their name. Nearly ten years later, after founding member and guitarist Jeff Wilson left Wolvhammer and Abigail Williams, Chrome Waves has been given new life and the mid-Western post-Black metal trio present us with A Grief Observed (Disorder)
This album is chiefly about loss and it does a solid job of juxtaposing grief-stricken cries of intensity with soaring melodies of lament. Leaps in quality have been made since the EP with a greater appreciation for lengthier song structures and a less abrasive production to let these songs feel grander, allowing A Grief Observed to be every bit like the kind of enduring gloom the title suggests.
‘Burdened’ personifies from the very start this as a chillingly bleak opener with shoegazey atmospherics that then proceeds to erupt with a Tom G. Warrior “UGH” and galloping drums. The title track, on the other hand, slows the pace right down to an almost hypnotic sway to really draw out the misery with a harsh, pained vocal performance layered over these delicate, mournful strings.
A Grief Observed occasionally flirts with more traditional Black Metal stylings, but it sits more comfortably in the realm of atmospheric, post-Black melancholy that is becoming increasingly popular over your run-of-the-mill frostbitten fury.
There are clean vocals that compliment these softer sounds, but they’re used sparingly, letting James Benson’s agonised expression take centre stage. When the clean vocals do come in, it suits the music comfortably and doesn’t disrupt the gloomy atmosphere, reminiscent of an almost While Heaven Wept style of sorrow. As the title track is sandwiched between the more plainly aggressive and riff-heavy ‘Past The Lights’ and ‘Predatory Animals’, it mimics those moments of quiet reflection in the constant ebb and flow30 one might experience during a time of grieving or prolonged sadness.
This is only reinforced through the intricate use of cello, and on ‘Take Another Sip’ that really tugs at the heartstrings and bridges the gap between the melancholic drawl that starts the track and burning ferocity that closes it. The synth-like haze that begins then layers itself under crashing riffs on ‘Open Casket’ feels almost suffocating as Benson cries out “…gasping for air”, and there aren’t many songs that capture the feeling of those attempts to catch your breath whilst sobbing as well as this.
A Grief Observed might be one of the most apropos album titles of the year so far. It’s bleak, contemplative, and exhausting in the best possible way.
7 / 10