As December descends in, and rounds off 2021, the second year of a worldwide epidemic, a modern day ‘plague’, it’s hard to look back without seeing how a pandemic has forever changed the way we live our lives, and within them, the way we experience certain areas of life. One of those areas is how we, as music lovers, get to experience new music and find new bands.
As an extreme music fan, having to give up on live events was particularly upsetting, because it meant that the outlet for new and exciting bands became even more limited indeed.
Because of this, I had to adapt exactly how I would experience new bands, and with that in mind, I started reviewing albums. In part, because it gave me access to up-and-coming album releases, and it also meant I could get in at the ground level with some truly phenomenal new musicians. Since then, my record collection has extensively grown, and with it too, my list of truly incredible, uniquely wonderful artists. With this in mind, and my constant need to expand my knowledge, this week saw the turn of the new album by the relatively anonymous artist Chaos Emeralds.
Chaos Emeralds, it would appear, as well as being an object associated with the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise, is also the brainchild of a UK artist, Charlie Butler, who creates sonic soundscapes of shoegaze doom, a mixture of dark and light, which has to be heard to be believed. Crawling From The Wreckage is the newest addition to a body of work, the likes of which is as enthralling as it is incredible.
Over the course of the six breath-taking tracks, the multi-instrumentalist lets us into a dark world, filled with ominous and doom-laden wastelands, where dark shoegaze meets a doomy post-rock, to navigate an apocalyptical utopia, fit for the end of the world.
Right from the opening track, Red Angel, we, the listener, are thrown into a dystopian world, of dark and depressive ambience. As a slow drone emerges from the darkness, it’s met with a slow, morose, guitar accompaniment. It’s a lavish mix of brooding, lurching opulence, and sets an altogether darker feel to your listening experience. Its fuzzy wonderfulness, the whining guitar, and lumbering beat keeps the pace to nothing short of a drag. It builds and builds, in pace, tone, and mood, until it is completely overwhelming.
When the pace finally drops off in the final third, it makes way for a passage of respite, where things actually slow to an ambient crawl. To say this is ‘lighter’ probably isn’t the best description, but to make it comparable, its the equivalent of a Nine Inch Nails track, which is mostly evident on The Fragile era of NIN’s existence, where the sprawling noise is reduced to a single tone, its lighter, but no less imposing. And by the end of the track, its simplicity is truly wondrous.
onic soundscapes of shoegaze doom, a mixture of dark and light, which has to be heard to be believed…
Track two, Dream Trap continues down the same ambient noise path, which only capitalises on the majesty of the opener. There is an air of nostalgia about it, reminding me of several UK indie bands from the early nineties, yet the gnarly fuzz guitar overlay takes things to a completely new level.
Crawling From The Wreckage, the third track that shares its name with the album title, enters with a vibrancy in the guitar which drives things forward. With the addition of the accompanying instruments, adding even more excitement to the whole piece, as it progresses, the urgency also quickens. By the end, there’s a feeling of completeness and a resolution.
Clenched Teeth is a somewhat lighter track, which again, has a real nineties indie feel to it, complete with that addition of fuzzy guitar. There’s a time signature that makes it feel like the ticking of a clock, and it’s wondrously lovely. Where Clenched Teeth brings the light, The Shivers does its best to immerse us in the darkness. It’s as uncomfortable as it is abrasive and truly offsets the previous track beautifully.
Nahadoth is the final piece of the puzzle, and after an initial slow burn start, it carefully builds into a blistering wall of fuzzy wailing guitar. When it’s at its most vibrant, its overwhelming, and yet when it drops off, it’s simply enthralling. Again, I draw comparison to NIN’s The Fragile, with its apocalyptic soundscapes, and it’s quintessential capturing of the feeling of pure forceful aggression. The sprawling soundscapes seem never-ending, raw, and emotional.
As it draws to a close, I ponder on just how I will write up my review, what I should say which would best describe to you, the reader, what you will get from the experience. I can’t point to any direct similarity to any other artist, with the exception of the aforementioned NIN, but that’s more in tone than sound, and I can’t specifically pinpoint a genre either. To say it’s a listening experience that needs to be witnessed to believe, probably wouldn’t help here either, so I conclude with this thought.
In a time where it all feels like it’s been done before, and in pursuit of something new, I have had the honour of having my eyes opened in the last two years to some phenomenal artist’s, whom, if this writing opportunity hadn’t arisen, I wouldn’t have been a party to. In all that time, there have only been a handful of occasions where I’ve stumbled upon something fresh, new, and different.
One of those musical awakening moments was to Greg Schwan’s Witnesses project, where someone has come along, and their scope, imagination, and mastery, truly captures something unique. Chaos Emeralds gives me the same vibes, and that, dear reader, is everything to me. To see is to believe, so to witness for yourselves is the only way you will truly get an idea of its true majesty.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish