Chrome Waves has changed quite a bit in the seven years since their last release, and so have I. I was quite enamored with their self-titled EP when it first came out in 2012 despite having very little familiarity with the atmospheric side of black metal, and it remains a favorite of the genre even with more experience under my belt. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that Chrome Waves’ first full-length A Grief Observed lives up to that distant introduction and stands out on its own merits.
Right off the bat, A Grief Observed sees Chrome Waves gradually moving away from the “black” portion of post-blackgaze. The production is noticeably cleaner with the vocals pushed up to the forefront, while the drums and guitars put in less extreme performances. Completely new elements have also been introduced as synths and strings play a greater role in developing melodies, and clean vocals now run rampant in fields that had once been uncharted territory. It has a lot more in common with The Atlas Moth or ColdWorld than something like Nachtmystium.
Thankfully a blackened foundation serves as a smooth link between releases and the atmosphere is as cold as ever. The synth work builds up a desolate, wintery tone that is further expanded upon by bitter hazy guitars and echoing drum work. The vocals also use their contrasts to highlight an overall consistent mood as the screams convey hopelessness while the layered cleans have a distant, somber aura.
Since Chrome Waves was never about being the most extreme band to begin with, you’ll still find plenty of song variation. The best tracks are toward the middle of the album with “Past the Lights” mixing an upbeat, building riff set with rather catchy vocal lines, the title track making for a depressive slow burn, and “Predatory Animals” going at a driving pace without fully giving into the speed. “Open Casket” is another highlight, closing the album out with its most brutal chugs and emotional leads.
Whether you knew Chrome Waves from their debut EP or if this album is your first experience, A Grief Observed is a fantastic piece of atmospheric harshness. While the less abrasive production and greater vocal dexterity could feel like a bid at accessibility, these elements only enhance the pre-existing foundation. I’m happy to have these guys back and hearing them sound this awesome really makes me hope they can get some strong momentum behind this.
“Past the Lights”
“A Grief Observed”