Wednesday 10 January 2024

Chimeras - Silent Cries in the Stifling Haze (2024)

Country: Hong Kong
Style: Atmospheric Doom Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 6 Jan 2024
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives | Twitter | Weibo | YouTube

I've only reviewed one album from Hong Kong thus far at Apocalypse Later, from a one-man post-black metal project called Voyage in Solitude, so it's about time I reviewed another. This is a band, who put out a demo and a single in 2018 but are debuting at the full length here. They play doom metal with an aching atmospheric mood but in a way that isn't always as slow as we might expect. Also, both lead vocalists are female, one lead and one backing, but one sings clean and the other harsh, depending on what a particular song needs in a particular moment.

The lead singer is Fraise Tam and she sings entirely clean on Devoidness. This is elegant doom that builds patiently with quietness and spoken vocals until crunch arrives two minutes in, even then a crunch that's tempered by a soft piano melody over the top. The song is slow and Tam's vocals are haunting without moving far into gothic. There's melancholy in the keyboards and pleading in the guitars. This fits an established doom metal template well enough, but there are points where it's surprising because it speeds up further than we expect.

Hidden Label adds the harsh voice, which I'm guessing belongs to guitarist Winnie Manka but I'm unsure isn't also Tam at points. Even on Mind Deception, where the two voices duet, it could be a couple of tracks from one singer combined. Another element that shows up on Hidden Label is an affinity for symphonic flourishes, presumably courtesy of Andy Shun Hung's keyboards. This never truly becomes symphonic metal, but it starts to hint in that direction here and moves closer still on The Seven Doors - Barbe Bleue -.

This is where the album coalesced for me, the contrasts between clean and harsh vocals and also between slower aching drive and symphonic flourishes, Tam reaching especially high and Manka staying low. There's a real epic feel to this one, even though it's no longer than Devoidness and a minute or two shorter than the next couple of songs, Mind Deception and Order of Chaos. There's a gorgeous clockwork section a minute and a half in and an excellent guitar solo too, proving that Chimeras aren't merely able to generate mood, they can be innovative with it too.

Mind Deception may be their oldest song, given that it was their 2018 single and it also featured as half of their demo, which is interesting to me, because it's easily the slowest song here, kicking off that way right from the outset and not speeding up until after the halfway mark of eight and a half minutes. It drops into a peaceful midsection before that with spoken vocals—well, whispered vocals—and sparing but melodious keyboards, before picking up that emphasis and chugging on for a while. Eventually it slows back down and ends with some elegant keyboard work to take it all home. It's my favourite song here apart from The Seven Doors - Barbe Bleue -.

That leaves two, because it seemed logical for me to run through this one uncharacteristically in order because of how it changes, gradually introducing new elements as it goes. Order of Chaos starts out very much like the last couple of songs, but speeds up considerably a few minutes in to almost blister along for a while. This never becomes thrash metal or anything like that, but it's a speedy pace indeed for doom and it stays there for a surprising upbeat minute, leaping headlong into it from another slow keyboard section. This is the real epic of the album and it's a tasty one, with a fascinating midsection, again much of it courtesy of Andy Shun Hung.

Winged Psyche, however, refuses to do almost anything that's gone before, not even approaching metal at any point. It's hardly an outro as a six minute plus song, but it's sung entirely clean and the guitars are either acoustic or quiet electric. From atmospheric doom metal, this shifts firmly into Wishbone Ash territory. That's not a bad thing, of course, and it's a good song, albeit more of a showcase for Tam than for the guitarists. It's just unexpected and what you feel about it may be in part due to whether you like being unexpected forty minutes into an album.

I liked this. It seems to me that Chimeras are still figuring out precisely what they want the sound of the band to be, possibly because these songs were likely written over quite a period of time. At least Hidden Label and Mind Deception are at least six years old, potentially up to eleven, as the band formed as far back as 2013. I don't know how often they play live, but I hope they write more frequently going forward, so we can hear an entirely new album that represents exactly who they are at that point in time.

No comments:

Post a Comment