First impressions have always been a powerful force when it comes to music consumption. Whether due to a lack of time and/or money, listeners have limited resources to dedicate to the ceaseless torrent of new music and the seemingly bottomless pool of vintage releases. And as superficial as it may seem to curate listening habits based on album covers, brief descriptions and other non-musical factors, these elements are arguably just as important as the music itself. A band’s stylistic choices and the effort they put into their presentation often speaks to the core of what they have to offer as musicians.
All this is meant to preface the abundant contextual clues provided by Chaos Echœs that should snag the eyes of any forward-thinking death metal fan. After all, how many metal bands have collaborated with avant-garde sax goliath Mats Gustafsson and quote legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter on their Bandcamp profile (“To hell with the rules, I am going for the unknown”)?
Before listening to a moment of Mouvement, it’s clear Chaos Echœs approaches death metal with an entirely unique mindset; a mental framework drawing equal influence from Speak No Evil and Here in After. Chaos Echœs truly do aim for the unknown, eschewing many of the commonalities associated with modern death metal. Marrying the ferocious murk of Altarage and Portal with the psychedelic, post-krautrock of Aluk Todolo, Mouvement provides a window into the twisted, cavernous minds of Chaos Echœs, clearly haunted by remnants of unspeakable nightmares.
As if the chaos of the music wasn’t clear enough, the track titles themselves offer a grim poem that trails off on the final song:
Embodied By Perfidious Curls In The Innervated Flux,
As An Embraceable Magma Leading The Subliminal.
Surrounded And Amazed By These Unplumbed Abysses Of The Inverted Sea,
Through Kaleidoscopic Haze Of Unexpected Extents.
Shine On, Obsidian! Ego! Ego! Echo Back To The Yearning Of The Self!
Alas! Here Is The Feebles’ Assent, Exalted By Your Mouth Full Of Flies…
Cryptic lyricism is just one of the traits Chaos Echœs shares with the likes of Portal, as the relentless “Embodied By Perfidious Curls In The Innervated Flux” launches into being with a ferocious flurry of blasts and disorienting riffs. With a driving pace and carefully timed starts and stops, the track is a perfectly unsettling opener that pits unbridled aggression against measured blows. As brutal as the song can be, the compositional twists and turns offer a much more complete bludgeoning. All of this is made more impressive by the near-absence of vocals, save for a shriek at the onset and periodic whispers throughout. This trend continues throughout the album as the band only adds in vocals when the moment calls for their inclusion. Though the album would have succeeded if it was entirely instrumental, the well-timed vocalizations the band throws into the mix add an extra coating of discomfort that helps elevate each track just a bit beyond its existing level of quality.
But just as the listener is settling into what they assume Mouvement will have to offer, in swoops Chaos Echœs to deliver a left hook with a morning star. Though the album’s opener flows seamlessly into “As An Embraceable Magma Leading The Subliminal,” the track quickly removes its cloak to reveal an entirely different ghoul. A slow, stalking pace creeps onward as bass plods through a mist of psychedelic, ethereal guitar effects, drawing strong parallels to Aluk Todolo and their signature brand of steady development. In a way, the tracks form a duo similar to Gorguts‘s “Colored Sands” in reverse, albeit with a great deal more murk. Instead of leading with a foreboding atmosphere and then unleashing a savage pummeling, Chaos Echœs demolish the floor from underneath the listener and leave their amped, uneasy mind in a free fall through an eternal darkness.
The album continues on its own convoluted path from there, darting in whatever direction Chaos Echœs sees fit. “Surrounded And Amazed By These Unplumbed Abysses Of The Inverted Sea” also boasts a Gorgustian vibe, with mystic details accenting heavy, droning walls of impenetrable riffs. Continuing on with “Through Kaleidoscopic Haze Of Unexpected Extents,” the wall morphs into Portal-esque webs of jarring, melancholy tremolos, with haunting blackened melodies echoing in the distance. The band brings back some more traditional death metal elements with “Shine On, Obsidian! Ego! Ego! Echo Back To The Yearning Of The Self!,” flirting with some of the more linear moments from Deathspell Omega‘s catalog. The aforementioned post-krautrock vibes come into play a bit more here, as guitar riffs build and crash into one another and stack to create a consuming swirl of chaos. Finally, the album concludes with the ritualistic “Alas! Here Is The Feebles’ Assent, Exalted By Your Mouth Full Of Flies,” a track that sounds like the album itself slowly dying. The vocals are more prominent here than anywhere else on the album, with wretched chants and howls overtaking a roaring drone that eventually fades to nothing.
Since its inception, a central theme of our monthly Death’s Door column is exploring how far fresh young bands can expand the scope of what constitutes “death metal.” As much as Jonathan and I love a well-crafted iteration of the traits that first spurned our love for the genre, there’s nothing quite like a band taking a successful blueprint and finding new ways to build even more enticing sonic landscapes. Chaos Echœs is a shining example of this phenomenon in action, and I’ll be damned if I find another death metal album quite like this before years’ end. Sure, I’d certainly welcome another record that pushes boundaries and challenges expectations as much as Mouvement does. But this perverse musical journey sets that bar pretty high, and I’ll be fully content if this ends up being the most off-kilter avant-garde death metal I hear all year.