I like my music like I like my chicken: DARK. So you know I was hype as shit when Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean announced a new EP, and I knew I had to ask my pal Hanna to form this review with me as we’re both big fans. We’ve been enthralled by the anonymous Massachusetts sludge/doom band since their 2019 EP, Tell Me What You See Vanishing and I Will Tell You Who You Are, which Hanna expertly reviewed when they joined us. Now, we join forces to gush about their brand of gloomy doom, and what you see before you is the result of that. Have fun!
David: Hey Hanna, it’s been a while since we found ourselves in this situation. How are you?
Hanna: Hey David! Honestly, I’m exhausted – it’s been a beast of a year. I feel exactly how Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean’s new EP sounds, but more on that later. How are you?
D: Damn, that’s DARK. But it’s also true and relevant to the situation because we just so happen to be talking about that very thing which makes me pretty happy. 🙂 What’s your history like with this band?
H: They were actually one of the first bands I reviewed when I joined EIN. I picked up their EP Tell Me What You See Vanishing and I Will Tell You Who You Are because I thought the name was brilliant – I’d never heard of them before, but I’m a sucker for long, poetic names. I was not disappointed – that EP packs a punch, and it stuck with me. I think it’s such an excellent example of what doomy sludge metal can be; I found it very hard to fault. They’ve been on my radar ever since. You’ve been following them for quite a while, right?
D: Yeah, since about the same EP. In fact, your review may have tipped me off to them. Really been into them ever since. My only complain with the band as a whole is I want more substantial projects like another album – one hasn’t been released since 2017 and it was their first project – but I will take what I can get when it’s good and what we have here today is a great little EP called I Tried Catching You But You Fell Through Me which is appropriately dismal for a name. Where should we start?
H: I feel this EP is very interesting, because it’s very much like everything else Chained have done, and yet there’s something fresh about it (more on that later). I’ll agree with you that I was also hoping for something a bit more substantial, but I’m also not too concerned – even though I Tried Catching You is only 17 minutes long, no time is wasted. Let’s start at the beginning. I love that the band chose to start this EP with that glacial, screeching feedback – it sets the listener up for a world of misery. The first track is called “With This Dagger In My Heart I Shall Turn The World To Ash” – what do you think of that song name, and the song itself?
D: Yes, feedback is a surefire way to know I’m about to have all of my limbs removed from my body and this time’s no different. “With This Dagger…” is great. It lurches onward for all seven minutes of its life, tons of splashy drums, menacing vocals, lethargic yet still precise and heavy guitars. It is a Chained track through and through. The title is exactly the kind of macabre shit I come to expect and I love it. Just hits on all cylinders and makes for a great start to the EP.
H: Couldn’t have put it better myself. The immense weight of “With This Dagger”, paired with its stunning simplicity, makes it one of those songs that just feels significant. Also, I’ve always loved the imagery of things turning to ash – a reminder that all things pass eventually, and yet, in this case, also a threat. ‘I shall turn the world to ash’ – I shall bring the apocalypse, I shall be the reason none survive. It’s such a simple statement, and yet it carries so much depth. I love that, and this song is a fantastic start to the EP. Also, how slappin’ is that end section? Just the repeated mantra of ‘And as quickly as it comes, it leaves/And as quickly as he comes, he leaves’ over easily the most driving riff in the song, really hits me. Again, a simple section, and so, so effective.
D: I’m glad you brought up the end because holy shit, yes. There’s a power in simplicity if executed right, and while I couldn’t and wouldn’t write off Chained as a whole as simple, it’s their ability to make even the simple feel massive and impenetrable. I mean, this is the band that covered Death Cab for Cutie and made it their own track. Definitely apocalyptic, definitely weighty. It shouldn’t sound as fun as it does, but it does and I love it.
It leads quite well into the next track too. What did you think of “Suffering is a Gift From God” (what a title)?
H: Holy shit. One of the hottest tracks of the year. I love everything about it, it’s just absolutely pummeling and miserable. It’s the shortest track on the EP, yet to me, it hits the hardest. The first time I heard it, I was blown away, and that feeling repeats every time I hear it. It’s so tantalisingly dark, so intense, and just a bit different. I mean, even the opening lyrics are chilling: ‘I don’t think I meant to/Misuse you, misuse you/When I told you/I wanted it all’. Part of me relates to that all too well, but I couldn’t explain why. I feel a very profound personal connection to this song that I can’t quite put my finger on. I think it could possibly be a little polarising, though. What’s your opinion?
D: Yeah, it really is like they condensed all the strength of a longer track into this shorter one. It’s a lot quicker with speedy drums, but that doom slog still reigns supreme during the verses and stuff. It’s subtly progressive – I love when the riff changes up a bit for the second verse into this intense descending beast. Vocals sound great on here too. This is top-notch sludge. I’m more partial to the vocals in that second verse as they resonate with me personally:
Being better men
Now bitter and cold.
A tasteless feeling when
Losing what you love,
Loving when you lose.
Turning out to be
What you run from
Self fulfilling prophecy’
H: There’s always this stark bleakness to Chained’s lyrics, a sort of absence of complication that I really like. There’s no bizarre vocabulary, not a lot of subtle metaphor, and yet, so much nuance – it’s very honest, and candid, and feels a little bitter. One of my favourite lyrics on this EP is right near the end of the final track: ‘And your carcass is a fortress to rest my weary bones’. How chilling! How good!
D: I feel you there. I appreciate depth and some symbolism, or just a straight up story with or without ambiguity, but when the music is as straightforward and effective as this, the lyrics matching up is just icing on the cake.
Now speaking of the final track, we should talk about that a bit. “Decadence in the House of Rats” – another great title – is kind of a full-circle moment for the EP. It’s unavoidably fierce from the start lyrically:
‘I will serve you
Until my lungs burn
Through my fucking chest.
Worthless trying sleep
In a place like this.
I rip your spine out
Through the drywall.’
Absolutely brutal, and the whole track is just rhythmic slaying, very heavy and unforgiving. It may be my favorite, but honestly, with everything as strong as it is on the EP, you can’t go wrong. It’s just a matter of flavoring I suppose. How did you take to it?
H: Oh, that line about ripping your spine out through the drywall really gets me! Such a confronting image. The first thing I noticed in this track was the absolutely lethal bass tone. I mean, it’s been like that on the whole EP, but it really gets its moment during the intro of this track. I really love the tail end on the verse riff as well – that very dissonant ascending motif after mainly monotonous chugging hits especially hard. There’s a lot of space in this track, sustained chords that turn into brittle feedback while the drums continue to heave and the bass blunders along. I know that all sounds negative, but it’s not at all meant that way.
I love how after the second verse, the mood changes again; the song somehow becomes darker yet. Again, just slamming drums, feedback, and that deathly-saturated bass tone, before everyone meets in unison for one last time. It’s thick as molasses, tough, sinewy, bestial. I love it, but I don’t love the fade out. I’d rather it just ended, or completed the circle by disintegrating into feedback once again. But that’s pretty much my only gripe. What makes this song stand out as your favourite?
D: Yeah, I’m not a fan of fade-outs in general so I get that. I think this is my favorite because it just represents the apex of their sound to me. I love when Chained keep to the slower end of the tempo spectrum and just mash their instruments to hell. There’s not really a missed opportunity or undercooked section of it (except that fade-out). It’s an absurdly even patterned deathtrap that doesn’t let up or change up the whole time. Like I said before, I really like the progression and variance of ”Suffering is a Gift From God”, but this just kneads your face into the ground for an ender. Love it.
H: Haha! It sure does. I think it’s interesting that you see it as the apex of their sound, because I feel that way about the whole EP – it’s instantly recognisable as Chained, it’s so undeniably them, and yet it doesn’t at any point feel stale or like they’re stuck in a rut with their sound. I find it interesting, therefore, that they’ve chosen to go with a wildly different art style for their EP. All of their previous artworks are black and white, medieval-style etchings. This one is violent, distorted, with confronting colours, and very obviously painted. I really, really like it – it’s just the right amount of disturbing and visually aesthetic. This album cover is such a complete departure from their previous ones, and here’s what I find especially interesting about that – it suits the music just as well. Despite being in such a different style, it nevertheless captures the same fundamental mood.
D: Yesssssss, I’m so glad you brought up the art because I was going to as well. Yeah, this cover is very different yet matches the music so well. It’s grim with figures seemingly rotting and melting away in the foreground. You can’t even tell where you’re at which is part of what makes it unsettling – it’s as dark as a grave, but the variety in color makes it seem like an ethereal plane of some sort. If you ran Chained’s music on this EP through a machine (or an AI as is all the rage these days) that translated music to visual art, I’m sure the results would be close to the surreal presentation we got. I love that you can clearly see the brush strokes as well. Reminds me a bit of Gabriel Augusto’s art.
H: Ooh, if you’re into that kind of thing, you might also like RF Pangborn! Very similar sort of unnerving style. There’s so much fantastic art out there, and so many incredibly creative people. My favourite kind of art is the kind you can come back to again and again and always find something new, and I think the album cover for “I Tried Catching You”, in combination with the EP itself, is one of those artworks.
D: I just clicked the link and immediately loved it. Very similar, very awesome. 🙂 I agree though, there’s just a lot going on and it’s endlessly interpretable – the sign of long-standing and notable art.
Well, Hanna, I think we’ve just about drained this little EP for all it’s worth. Any closing thoughts you’d like to throw out to our readers, or maybe even the band if they so happen to see this?
H: I think just the usual – readers, thank you for reading, and Chained, thank you for yet another absolutely eviscerating release. I’m so excited to see what the future brings for you all!
D: Couldn’t agree more. 🙂