To classify a band as a certain genre seems like an understatement, considering that Chiasma’s second full-length, The Human Element, doesn’t fall into an exact category. The progressive metal band hailing from Indianapolis developed an undeniably unique album which seems to be all about exploring uncharted territories with their sound, but in certain areas incoherency is present.
Starting off with the slow, dream-pop influenced introduction entitled “Master,” which provides a short, but necessary two minutes for the listeners to prepare themselves in order to down the nine other extremely long tracks yet to come. The first actual song, “Starboard” is up next which brings heavy electronic elements into play while Katie Thompson’s operatic vocal range soars throughout. The heavy riffs along with the catchy line, “Starboard, somebody lock the windows” works great for this band, but what’s accomplished within the next few songs seems lackluster at best. “Fourier Transform” is overshadowed by the vocals to say the least. I was waiting to hear at least a few seconds of equal melodic presence throughout, but it wasn’t there. The guitar solos are good, and the growls add a special quality to the piece, but overall this serves as a sleeper hit. Many listeners aren’t attentive enough to sit through more than five minutes of the same mundane repetitiveness, unless “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is your favorite song.
“Afterglow” begins with great guitar distortion, but it sounds like it was ripped straight out of Epica’s songbook. The most notable part of it is when the guitars duel at the end and Thompson’s vocals finish strong with no instrumentation. It’s not bad, but definitely needs some revisions for it to standout. “Circles” follows in the footsteps of what the previous track attained and it has a nice meaning, but lacks definitive substance. There are parts where syllables of certain words are stressed more than needed, which could possibly be viewed as cringe-worthy by some. But when focusing on the the work of the instruments, they’re spot on. “Chiasmatic Passenger” sounds like drop A guitars gone wrong. The growls are sparse and need to be brought out more, especially in a track like this. The only reason I remembered this song is due to the tone shifting, but then at the end it sounds like elevator music that you would hear at your local Wendy’s while taking a lunch break.
In desperate need of change, the rest of the album is somewhat decent. “Urgent” is arguably the standout track on the record. It’s slower than the others, but shows off vocal technique to a certain extent. “Narcissus” gives off a vaudevillian vibe with heavy elements, which really pick up when the song starts. This track is unapologetic and shows just how hard this band can go. There are some great orchestra and string elements to top it off as well. If I could offer one piece of advice to this group, it would be to expand off of the material and sound presented in this song. It’s impressive and cathartic at times, but works well for them in the grand scheme of things. “Fighter” is another strong number, but the electronic parts are put in all the wrong places. Although, the lyrics will certainly resonate with others if the band performs this song live, “Leave me, your sisters are waiting. You’re set free love. Go on home, they’re all there, waiting for you.” The title track culminates the record and is definitely not the strongest to do so. Up until the 1:30 mark it seems a bit unnecessary. Once the song actually kicks in, it appears it ends as soon as it started because of all the extraneous material presented in the beginning. Adding to that, it closes with the cliffhanger lyric, “If I could just find the questions.” The material of this composition is worthy enough for one’s time, but is not fitting enough to serve as the album title.
Obviously listeners could be left at the end wanting more, but unfortunately they don’t seem to get that. Overall, this is a strange piece of work that needs improvement, but undeniably does what it’s intended to do, which is provide a distinctive musical experience.