Chaos Moon’s fourth full-length, Eschaton Mémoire swarms with a dense black metal cascade, sweeping and overwhelming in the tide of tremolo and crush of percussion surging through it. For all its fury, however, Eschaton Mémoire can also collapse into itself — a victim of its own density when the massive drums play over the music instead of with it. When the formula works, however, Eschaton Mémoire is enveloping, chaotic, and furious — and when it doesn’t, all that sound and fury melds into forgettable background noise, signifying nothing.
The drums are the masters of the album. They utterly control Eschaton Mémoire, providing it with character, pace, and intensity. Seriously — these drums do work. Cascading fills, thunderous blast beats, hyperspeed double bass kicks, explosive crashes — everything great about metal drumming, turned up to 11. What really makes the drums stick out, though, is not that they’re fast or heavy or that they’re played proficiently (although all those things are true), it’s that the drumming contributes so much more sound to the album than any other instrument. This is because Eschaton Mémoire is not a fast album; it’s a slow album with really fast drumming. The actual melodic changes from the lead riffing and synths are generally quite ponderous. Even the tremolo riffing, although it’s picked at a suitably black metal pace, changes chords at a lackadaisical pace. The net result is an album at the mercy of a drum kit, drawling out atmospheric melodies while a hamster on amphetamines trades his wheel for a double bass kit and his soul to the Devil for opposable thumbs.
Although the drumming is pretty dang cool, it can also serve as a barrier for entry to Eschaton Mémoire. The combination of atmospheric melodies with the constant pounding percussion can turn the album into cacophonous background noise if the listener isn’t fully engaged with the music. Melodic leads — whether vocal, synth, or guitar — rarely burst from the even mixing job, so there are relatively few moments that catch the ear. Tempo changes scattered throughout the album help emphasize certain parts of the music, but they alone don’t do enough to counteract the melodies crushed by the weight of percussion. Chaos Moon can write excellent riffs, and they can properly emphasize them — one of the best moments in the album (and a real ear-catcher!) is the aggressive riff about thirty seconds into the final track — but they don’t have enough of these moments to top off a truly great album.
What Eschaton Mémoire does have, and in spades, is unobtrusive, atmospheric riffs bolstered by spacey synths and an excellently cold, harrowing vocal performance from new vocalist Eric Baker. There are few discernable highlights to the album, few catchy, play-that-riff-again! moments, but that’s not a problem at all. Eschaton Mémoire is a journey treacherous the whole way through, a tale to be enjoyed as a cohesive whole. The contemplative riffs and ethereal synths weave with the drums to create an atmosphere that is at once oppressive, beautiful and chaotic. Many bands have tried to perform this difficult balancing act, and Chaos Moon does it well. Eschaton Mémoire can outrun itself and devolve into a blastbeat lullaby, but careful listens will unlock a grandiose album powerful in delivery and vast in scope.
Eschaton Mémoire is available now via Blood Music.