Released: Janu, Moribund Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Chasma are a black metal band hailing from Portland, Oregon; a town rich in the genre, bringing bands such as Velvet Cacoon and Agalloch to our waiting ears. A quick visit to their Bandcamp page shows that they describe their style as: "Seeking transcendence through ragged fury, shape-shifting dynamics and frequently beautiful excursions, recasting classic black metal into otherworldly shapes and a plausibly modern contour", whilst also being "mystical yet emotional, of the earth and yet aiming for the cosmos". Bold claims by any stretch of the imagination, yet if you break them down into simpler terms, the band's self-proclamations hold some weight.
First off, "recasting" and "plausibly modern contour" are certainly accurate. Whilst Woods of Desolation et al are seasoned in this style, Chasma's clean production, energetic drumming and shrieking vocals are up there with the best of them. Think of Gris, but aimed at the average Pitchfork reader. This is in no means a bad thing and there are plenty of elements in there to maintain interest; a mix of tempos, furious outpourings of emotion and the obvious amount of thought and hard work that has gone into each song make 'Codex Constellatia' an album to appreciate.
Although briefly touched upon, I have to go back to the vocals. They are sublime, tortured screams that reek of desperation, yet again drawing a comparison to Gris, especially on their 'La Dryade' record. It's the vocals that are the shining point here, and they serve as the album's gripping power when a couple of the songs go on for just a bit too long. That's just being picky however, as the vast majority of this record is seamless, flowing and a truly enjoyable listen.
'Codex Constellatia' is also suited to the its theme; the mix of dynamics make it suitably spacey, a trend which many fail to get right. Interlude "Forbidden Symmetry" is the best example of this. Percussion fiends need not fear either; the album's longest track "Wormwood Horizon" is rife with it and the blast of drums at the beginning is enough to shock even the heaviest sleeper out of their slumber.
A mix of shoegaze, black metal, ambience and otherworldy transcendence, Chasma offer something truly magnificent and an essential to any modern black metal fan's collection. It is beyond impressive how a mere five tracks can swoop you up into a rough cosmic haze. This release is perfect for vinyl and I can only hope that it brings the band all the recognition they deserve and more.
Review by Beth Avison