Released: 2015, RITF/Suburban Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Depending on your perspective, Dutch death/thrash metallers I Chaos either got a pretty nice boost or were put in a rather odd spot over the past couple years as three of the band's four members hooked up with their comparatively better known, and certainly far more established, Dew-Scented.
The rhythm section of bassist Joost van der Graaf and drummer Koen Herfst joined Dew-Scented for 2012’s Icarus, while guitarist Rory Hansen came aboard not long afterward and played on Intermination, which was issued in June. And all this came about a year after I Chaos had issued their full-length debut, The Human Repellent, which kind of nipped whatever forward progress they were making in the bud. Frontman Harry van Breda eventually left in 2014, perhaps having felt abandoned.
But I Chaos live on, with the threesome reconvening with new vocalist Tobias Borra – also of the relatively inactive Cypher with van der Graaf – to recapture some of the lost momentum. The Dew-Scented distraction, if you want to call it that, helped get the I Chaos name out and certainly doesn't seem to have affected the band’s ambitions.
Indeed, the quartet’s sophomore outing Masterbleeder is built around a saga involving mental illness and the psychiatric and pharmacological “cures” that often do more harm than good - or “extinguish parts of sanity,” as Borra bellows on viciously hooky “Ills Of Flesh.” But it never comes across as some high-falutin' “concept album,” given its tenacious soundtrack that delivers death metal bludgeon and thrash velocity with no-nonsense authority.
There aren't any acoustic segues or dramatic intros or buildups, the band just get right down to business with the ominous “Waking Hell” and keep on rolling. But what Masterbleeder might lack in atmosphere, it makes for in raw power and groove. Hansen's meaty riffs and punchy hooks and the taut, surging rhythms of van der Graaf and Herfst are as catchy as they are brutal and offer plenty to chew on.
Masterbleeder is an intense, abrasively effective album, and proves that these guys not only didn’t lose a step in the interim with Dew-Scented, they gained some confidence and honed their chops – coming out all the better for it in the end. Just what a resurgent I Chaos might mean for Hansen, van der Graff and Herfst's future with Dew-Scented remains to be seen, but the future of I Chaos would seem to be pretty bright on the strength of Masterbleeder.