There’s been so many good albums this year it’s easy for some to slip through the cracks, even ones that you’ve already listened to. When I first heard The Chemical Mind‘s Beneath the Shadow It Casts, admittedly I listened to a couple of songs and sort of just dismissed it as another average entry into the field of one man post-black/blackgaze bandcamp artists. A month or so later it popped back onto my radar and I gave it a solid dedicated listen and was immediately hooked and frustrated at myself for dismissing it so quickly. It’s really one of those albums where everytime I revisit it I’m fascinated and floored by something new. The intricacies of the composition and authentic progressive elements were the biggest things to stand out to me. Honestly as someone who is nit-picky about genre titles, if someone were to refer to this as just a straight up progressive metal album I’d be okay with that, which is probably why it stands out so much for me among other albums it might get lumped in with in the blackgaze movement.
While essentially a one-man project run by multi-instrumentalist and solo-artist Nick Krueger of Dallas, TX, for his first full-length album under The Chemical Mind moniker he has recruited Sam Meador and Matthew Earl of the ‘epic/symphonic black metal’ band Xanthochroid to provide additional vocals and compositions. The Xantho influence is especially apparent in some of the highlights of the album for me, such as the beautiful clean vocal passage in “By The Footsteps of the Flock” as well as “Refraction” which has some more of that ‘epic’ sound they’re known for. Nick’s harsh vocals while not bad, aren’t really the highlight of this album and I think maybe he’s recognized this, so the diversity here employed by the Xanthochroid crew is welcome and refreshing.
The progressive elements come both in the form of the varied songwriting and the instrumentation itself, such as the alt-rock style riffing and vocals in “Reflection” sandwiched between more traditional blackgaze parts and The Contortionist style instrumental bridges which climaxes with a post-rock crescendo. Then there’s “Saccharine Fruit” which seamlessly blends what sounds like a tapped clean riff with blast beats. These catchy repeated proggy clean riffs are kind of staple of this album, which Nick uses very effectively layered with distorted tremolo riffing. Some of my favourite riffing however actually comes from the bass, with takes sort of progressive death metal or Ne Obliviscaris feel such as on “The Mirror of Distorted Souls”.
The album’s production including mixing and mastering is all done by Nick Krueger himself, which I’ll say is not tremendous, but extremely adequate for the sound he clearly knew what he was going for. I think some of the heavier parts could have had a little more pop to them and the drum mix leaves a bit to be desired, but this is a black metal album after all so I can let these complaints slide.
For me, this is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated albums of 2019 and if you’re fan of any style of post-black metal or blackgaze and want to hear it given a more prog metal edge, I’d highly recommend giving Beneath the Shadow It Casts a healthy listen.