Look, what more can we say about Australia? If you haven’t caught on by now, there’s really little we can add. To the geography of metal, including Scandinavia, the UK, the US and other assorted locations, we can now write Australia in bold as the home of progressive, alternative and down-right excellent metal. To this then we come when we approach Chaos Divine‘s newest release, Colliding Skies. What have we here? A splash of Karnivool, a pinch of Caligula’s Horse and enough of the band’s own beating heart and soul to make the album unique.
At the base of the effort lies a curious balance struck between acoustic and distorted elements. A lighthearted, sweet approach to drums, guitars and vocals is never far but is often melded with a more aggressive pitch. These two elements are the oil and water of the album, never quite residing in the same place but informing the whole.
This is apparent even from the start, with the impossibly infectious ‘Landmines’. One more element we need to add to the mix, and one which is fast becoming a staple of the Australian scene, are the vocals. Adding here more to the “sweet” element of the album, their soaring melodies are not the icing of the cake but the passionate engine that drives the track, and indeed the album forward.
Along the way, growls and harsher elements are added to the vocals but they remain mostly melodic. Acting as their companion, almost always on the same key or octave, are the synths. These hard to tame instruments are also becoming somewhat of a necessary part of Australian releases, as evinced by another 2015 release, Arcane‘s Known/Learned. Indeed, the comparison between the albums is inevitable and not only on a chronological basis. It enables us to understand the power behind both: epic singing and instruments which are nevertheless never cheesy or forced.
This is most apparent on track like ‘Soldiers’ and ‘The Shepherd’. Both feature a chorus which is stepped in high-reaching vocals and intricate guitars. Too easily such antics devolve into cliche but here, their connection is maintained either by restraint at the brink or an overall production which keeps them anchored to the rest of the instruments. Whichever the case, instead of being some of the weaker tracks on the album as is often the case with such epics, they become two power-banks that pulsate with feeling and groove.
We would also be remiss without paying special attention to the closing track, ‘With Nothing We Depart’. It not only features a complete take over of the acoustic elements we mentioned but also incorporates heart-achingly beautiful wind instruments. All along the beginning and middle of the track they build up, only to smash open during the closing passages, leaving us breathless at the peak of their life. This is the physical metaphor best suited for the entire album: like many Australian releases of the last few years, it has this way to inch into your heart and stomach and simply leave you exhilarated. Yes, it’s impressive technically but mostly its impressive as music and art.
Chaos Divine’s Colliding Skies gets…