Last time I saw Chrome Waves, I was enthralled by the dreary, shoegazey death grip they had on me with The Rain Will Cleanse, a bit of a departure for the band, as previous material was a lot more blackened and metallic. As a result, it was anyone’s guess as to where they’d go for future work. Well, Earth Will Shed Its Skin is here to tell you that metal is BACK, BAYBEE!
More accurately, this album is a melding of styles, of the two halves Chrome Waves have confidently offered up over the years. It’s a veritable yin and yang here, and as cliché as that metaphor is, it’s fitting. The atmospheric post-rock is abundant still, but now it’s flanked by harsh vocals and some playful black metal instrumentation that allows the music to reel back and smack you in the mouth… but nicely. This isn’t the mixture of elements I expected from Chrome Waves, but perhaps it’s the one we deserve.
My area is having growing pains accepting the new, warm spring – just tomorrow, we’re supposed to regress back into an icy winter that threatens to upend normalcy. Much like this stylistic dichotomy, so too does this album wage an internal battle for sonic supremacy, though maybe I’m dramatizing a bit too much. What we get on Earth Will Shed Its Skin isn’t so much a war, but an uneasy harmony, one that takes work and won’t come effortlessly. Being literal, though, the music is exceptionally palatable for those into a touch of edgier, heavier work without sacrificing a softer, darker side.
I think this is exemplified no better than in “The Long Rope”, a song bookended by blast beats, but houses a molten, smooth core despite its prominent scruffy vocals. Pretty quickly, it’s apparent the tone and mood of the music is dismal – nothing new for Chrome Waves. The song titles alone contextualize a narrative that deals with despair and pain. “What Desperate Looks Like” stands out a lot in this regard because… well, what does that look like to this band? It’s tender and forlorn, carrying a reservation that’s all but fully given up. This is easily the slowest, most emotional song on Earth Will Shed Its Skin, and one of the most affecting they’ve ever dropped.
I must also shout out “The Nail”, which has a country Western-ish little swagger to it. The bass line, the cleaner guitars, the lyrics, they’re awesome. The vocals also have a enunciated and doomed affectation to them, sort of like Ghost‘s Papa Emeritus (pick one) – this is a compliment for me, as I do enjoy his vocals. The song has any semblance of peace drop-kicked out a window when a loud, dissonant trumpet appears about midway through. The video for the song does nothing to steer it away from the above – although it’s set in a contemporary world, there’s this Western feel to it with its quaint, rural setting. If it weren’t for the fucking exorcism that happens in it, it’d be a pretty moody, unassuming video for a track that sets itself apart from the rest in an interesting way. More of this please, Chrome Waves.
This album is so competent in what it sets out to achieve that it’s actually tough to pinpoint specific moments of note. Listen after listen, it just blended together into a single rolling composition of sorts – a 40-minute cloud of malaise that feels familiar and yet also supernaturally dangerous and foreboding. It has a lot going for it, and the band now feel more whole than ever having evolved into this new form that has room for everything they’ve managed to put forth so far, and it’s done tastefully, without bloating or overextending itself.
I guess with the advent of hindsight, this is a natural evolution for Chrome Waves. It almost reads like a greatest hits project from them with how it showcases all aspects of the band up to now. I could do without the screamed vocals and more metal proclivities because I was just so in love with the way they did before on The Rain Will Cleanse, but they are by no means undercooked or unwelcomed. For me, atmosphere is king with music like this, and king it shall remain, done exceptionally well here on Earth Will Shed Its Skin. It’ll be interesting to see what direction the band goes in next.