Chasma are naturally destructive on ‘Declaration of the Grand Artificer’

A few weeks ago, it snowed here. Generally that doesn’t happen until late November in these parts, and it led all of those wackos out there to declare global warming a myth, a lie, and a product of liberals. Yet here we are, a week before Thanksgiving, and I’m wearing shorts, the widows are open, and it’s been this way most of the month. Where are those people now?

You’re probably wondering about my point. Understandable. When I hear certain types of music, I like when what I see outside my window matches the spirit of the sound. And that’s only applicable to my little world, so if you don’t require snow and wintry majesty to be fully engulfed by “Declaration of the Grand Artificer,” the debut album from Portland, Ore., black metal band Chasma, then by all means take the leap. It didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the music, just so I’m clear, but it would have been a fully enhanced experience if the weather outside my window was more in line with what we typically feel here in November. I guess I’ll have to wait for that. It’s not a major issue.

Chasma, made up of members of bands such as Nanda Devi and Altar of Earth, have that Cascadian sound. They’re from the same path as Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room, yet they have more of a wintry feel, almost like they grabbed some of that Nordic influence as well. Their first album is only three cuts at 33 minutes, making it more like an EP, but it’s emotional, melodic, raw and wrenching, with the band making like they’re dripping every ounce of their life force onto the forest floor. You’ll likely find yourself daydreaming of difficult journeys on foot up hills, across a babbling body of water, into the mountains and through the brush, gazing into the sky for celestial guidance. As clichéd as I’m sure that sounds, it’s true. Just this morning as I was sitting in the car dealership listening again to Chasma while some damage was being repaired, I was able to ignore everything going on around me in the bustling waiting room and think more of what would be waiting for me when I went back outside. Too bad it wouldn’t be snow, but it was threatening storm, so that seemed fitting enough.

“Daystar Angelwar” opens the collection with a hammering, melodic pace, wild howls and shrieks that sound downright animalistic, and a vicious hiss. Eventually some calm sets in, the music goes a little cleaner, and some shoegazey fog rises up and envelops the land. That leads into “Shadowbend,” a song that begins with serenity and beauty, though eventually a progressive, rollicking bassline sets up shop, cymbals gets positively crushed, gorgeous post-metal style strumming arrives, and the whole thing bleeds out with tortured, panicked gargles and growls. “Blue Jewel Destruction” begins with an eerie, chilling playback of someone speaking indecipherably (the dialog might be played backward, but I can’t tell), and perhaps it’s the tail end of someone’s torture. Musically, it ranges from hulking and violent to alarmingly thought-provoking, with maniacal shrieks, throaty growls and quaking madness. The album ends way too quickly. That’s my only complaint. When the third song expired I really wanted there to be more, so there’s something to be said for that desire.

Chasma don’t veer too far from the Pacific Northwestern idea of black metal, which is something that’s gotten a black eye on the Internet lately, mainly from jerks. But fans of other bands such as Deafheaven, Weakling, FALSE, Woods of Ypres and Drudkh probably will be interested in this record as well. Chasma is a different type of signing for Moribund as well, who typically go for the ultra-evil, raw and pure black metal hellishness. Having this band on their roster is a demonstration of the label’s open-mindedness, and they’ve found themselves a future-star player here with Chasma. I’d like to hear more material from the band next time around, but it’s tough to complain with a piece as effective as “Declaration of the Grand Artificer,” one of the more promising black metal albums of the year.

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