Chrome Waves – A Grief Observed Review

Band: Chrome Waves
Album: A Grief Observed
Label: Disorder Recordings
Genre: Post-Black Metal
Country: USA
Release Date: March 1st, 2019

Fortunately, I am an individual who has not had to work through grief, nor have I had to help many of my friends and family through it. The best mental projection I can conjure up that helps me understand grief is a dark and bottomless hole that has walls lined with jagged ice that’s impossible to grip but cuts if you try. Grief truly is something that I won’t be able to fully understand unless a tragedy shakes me to my core, enough to siphon all joy and feelings of success and motivation out of my mental state of being. It’s with great joy that I am able to review Chrome Wave’s A Grief Observed, an album that utilizes inspiration from past bands to form a piece of art that captures what it’s like to feel the pervasive and lasting effects of a tragedy, which drag you down into that black icy hole of grief so many people struggle to understand and deal with.

The beginning song of this album, Burdened, starts off with a haunting guitar tone supported by pillars of a sorrowful synth, which gradually shifts into a dirge executed by a string section, bringing to mind F# A# ∞ by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. About a minute thirty in, I am struck by harsh and barking vocals that display the virulent pain that the protagonist of this album is bed-ridden with, combined with the atmospheric wall of sound from the guitars and the steadily marching blast-beats that black metal is so known for. But do not be mistaken, this is not traditional black metal, but rather post-black metal akin to Altar of Plagues’ Teethed Glory and Injury. Further evidence of Altar of Plagues’ influence is found in the latter half of the first song, as the song suddenly draws back, allowing the tremolo guitar lines, synths, and strings to paint a bleak and grey sky depicted in the album cover while the drums break down into a rhythmic and repeating solo, allowing the listener to take a break from the bleakness of the guitars and synths. The song finally comes to a close, with the vocals ending with the line “staring into a void”. The elements of this song typical, being displayed in the rest of the songs, but done so with excellence.

Looking at the titles of the rest of the songs on this album, one notices that this really is a grief observed. It is generally accepted that there are five steps of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. The songs of this album generally follow that order, telling the story of how the protagonist works through the loss of his son, from constant realization that something utterly devastating has occurred to him accepting that his son is really dead and lays inside the open casket waiting to be buried six feet under. Despite how depressing this album is, I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing it due to how well paced it is. The album follows the gentle ebb and flow of emotions that occur with grief; sometimes the grief is intense while at other times it is passive. There are motifs to be found throughout the album, whether it be the recurring clean vocals that follow eerily similar musical progressions or the weeping interludes of the strings. It is clear to me that Chrome Wave’s A Grief Observed is a well thought out album that retains a lot of detail while maintaining a pace comfortable for the listener.

For those who are looking for a post-metal album that thrives in a stagnant genre post metal is known to be, I bring forth A Grief Observed. I could write an entire essay on the thematic concepts this album covers in tandem with the musicality found, painting a sonic landscape of a destitute and barren field that grief embodies. However, a picture is worth a thousand words, and Chrome Waves does an excellent job showing us why.

Rating: 8/10

1. Burdened
2. Past the Lights
3. A Grief Observed
4. Predatory Animals
5. Take Another Sip
6. Open Casket

Total Playing Time: 44:34

Check out Chrome Waves’ Bandcamp

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