Welcome to Emotional Overtones, the feature that set out to overcome genre borders and create a more intimate relationship with music! We here at Everything Is Noise think that genres can sometimes be a little limiting, which is why I created this feature. Every episode of Emotional Overtones will feature a certain emotion (for example: melancholy, euphoria, apathy) as its topic and four to five writers will chose records based on this emotion or based on memories that conjure this emotion in connection to this record. There are no limits to genre, length, style, or band; everything is allowed as long as the writer feels it’s right and can explain his stance. This feature will be an ongoing series going through varying emotions of varying complexity.
Today’s episode is the ninth overall, and will feature the complex topic of chrysalism. Chrysalism is the amniotic tranquility one experiences sitting in the comfort of one’s house while a thunderstorm is raging outside. In a way, the blunt violence of nature makes your own four walls appear all the more cozy and safe. In my opinion an interesting subject to link to music. These are the thoughts of our writers on this topic:
Music is this one of safest ways of having a direct portal to someone whose life is more perilous than your own. So in all seriousness I initially had a ton of rap albums lined up for the theme of chrysalism. But in the end I chose the record whose sorrow resonated with me the most.
It could be argued that the victims of said ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ lifestyle are accountable for their own life choices. And it’s a hot take which almost misses the point when discussing Jerry Cantrell’s mournful opus, Degradation Trip
The album depicts the musings of a man who emerged still breathing from the excesses of hard drug use, but whose closest friends weren’t so fortunate. Made in the aftermath of the death of Alice In Chains’ frontman Layne Staley, Degradation Trip covers a lot of topics, as seen and heard in “Anger Rising”. But there is an overall unfaltering gloss of sadness in the music which I doubt would have been there had Cantrell’s buddy and comrade not recently passed on.
So in my younger years, bewildered by the madness of this world, I would sit with my friends and glare vacantly at the corner of a room, Degradation Trip blasting in the background. I would reflect intensively over a loss I had never experienced, caused by a level of self-abuse I had no intention of dabbling in. Sheltered by circumstance from the agonized storm of this record, I could only experience the rage, noise, and the regret vicariously, and I suppose naively. Stored in the confines of my own, comparatively un-endangered life, ‘chrysalism’ was a word more apt than any other.
Chrysalism — what a splendid notion, that I might feel solace in witnessing harsh conditions while at the same time being insulated from them. What of its inverse, I wonder? What of needing to expunge my inner torrents and toxicity, and resting content with being so insulated from the world at large so that no one will have witnessed me at such a time? Is that not a chrysalism? Is that not a manner of resting easy, thankfully protected from what might result from the world seeing me at my worst?
For this disturbing, but all too necessary perversion of chrysalism, with which I am only too familiar, I present to you Wound, the 1991 debut from Skin Chamber. A greater number of our readers will be familiar with Controlled Bleeding, of which Skin Chamber were a side project. Phil Lemos and Chris Moriarty (whose passing in 2008 regrettably put an end to this band) were inspired by Napalm Death and other grindcore and extreme metal acts that flowered in that period. They slammed it all together with their industrial savoir détruir and created one of the heaviest albums in my collection. If fear is the absence of power, then to hear “Burning Power”, “Sucked Inside” or “The Nails of Faith” or any other track on Wound would be to absorb it all. Yes, at those times when I need let it all flow through me so that nobody will need to see me at my worst, I feel safest here inside the Skin Chamber.
The first thing I thought of when I learned of the term chrysalism is atmosphere. The feeling I get while watching the rain fall from indoors is a strange mix of melancholy, warmth, and a sense of peace. It creates a certain atmosphere that makes me want to cozy up in my favorite sweatpants with a cup of hot coffee and pass the day away.
Tunnel Blanket is an album that gives me that same sensation. Much like the crashing rain can create a physical barrier between you and the world, This Will Destroy You create a palpable wall of sound that has much the same effect.
The highs and lows of the albums, from soaring crescendos to soft ambient melodies, adds another layer to the effect. It produces that same feeling that a rainstorm does. It is eerie and quiet in moments, refined to ethereal synth notes and soft melodies, but it is always building to something more.
When a bad storm is coming in, there is usually a moment where it will start to rain just a bit and you know that it has arrived. You see the haze the light downfall creates, and you can hear it tapping lightly on the roof. But as you listen, the rain picks up and it gets darker as the storm picks up. Suddenly it is raging at full strength, the rain pounding down in a constant stream, at sometimes deafening strength. It can stop or subside out of nowhere, or pick up again in an instant. Tunnel Vision is this storm.
There’s hardly a more specific feeling than the inner tranquility you feel as the overcast skies roll over and drops of rain patter the ground. It’s a somber, peaceful near-sorrow, full of introspection and thoughtful meanderings. How can you capture that frail, passing feeling that seems to extend forever unchanging into segmented music that is meant to keep the listener engaged. I’m sure you could make a good argument for a number of post-rock records, but for me, it will always be the lilting subtlety of a relaxed piano track.
It just so happens that one of the most prolific virtuosos of our time quietly released such an album half a decade back. Jordan Rudess is known for his extravagant and over-the-top works, even in his solo ventures (see “The Grand Escapement” if you need convincing), but with his 2013 album, All That is Now, he dialed it back considerably to express a much softer emotional pallet. From the opening notes of “Flash of Hope”, there is a thick introspective atmosphere that is unobtrusive yet undoubtedly present and full of awe – not unlike the storm at your window.
All fifty minutes carry the same tone and pace, making for a very consistent listening experience. A beautiful hesitation that lingers before a cascade of notes, the touching single sound followed by a moment of silence. Notes patter the soundstage as your mind has the chance to drift inward in a pendulum pattern, enunciated with strong high flourishes. Every movement that washes in and out through each song carries a passing consistent and complementary, yet impossible to predict, momentum.
What All That is Now offers in earnest is tranquil and engaging, perfect for studying or reading a book to, and the feeling it fills the listener with is somber and peaceful as the rain on your doorstep.