Daniel Cochardo loves metal. It is no question- from his tenure fronting The Chasm, his work in Cenotaph and his contributions to the last above-average Incantation album Diabolical Conquest that the man is steadfast in his dedication to extreme metal. Throughout his impressive library of work, we haven’t seen any indication of a wavering of passion or hints of selling out in any way. What we however have seen is a middling assemblage of efforts that come close to sublime heights but ultimately fall short of the metal ideal. Therfore The Chasm has always flown a bit under the radar, consistently releasing material that has a unique voice commanding the charge but a lack of cohesion giving the music a timeless appeal. With CCI, The Chasm ends their longest drought between records with an assertive gesture in the form of an instrumental concept album, and although that may hint at a rejuvenated band that is hungry to finally make the profound artistic statement they have always fallen short of, unfortunately The Chasm has given us a release more puzzling than declarative.
What is immediately clear of The Chasm’s approach upon hearing this record is that there is not enough musical development happening to denote an instrumental release. They haven’t breached a great advancement in their style here that would indicate that they can shed elements of their formula and more confidently portray a holistic message than they had in works of the past, and here removing vocals forces you to focus all the more on their compositional shortcomings to reveal the chinks in their armor that were once masked by vocal distraction but are now amplified in naked vulnerability. Though cataloged as a death metal band, stripping the vocals also reveals that their leanings are more of a blackened speed metal hybrid. While this isn’t a bad thing it may indicate a foundational confusion that kept their efforts from reaching elite status. The construction of the release also forces more questions than an assertive statement should allow.
The release is divided into eleven chapters, thematically clustered in three-chapter arrangements until the final two, but there is nothing that makes the single chapters identifiable melodically given the amount of ideas crammed into each one, and due to the nature of the “concept album” one would expect overarching melodic themes throughout the course of the release but there is very little present to tie the entire record together let alone the multiple-chapter groupings aside from their self-referential style as the release plays out. The structuring of the music is very much “play a part, stop completely, then move on to something completely different” which plagues the worst of unorganized releases. Individual riffs however are strong, layered, and confident but never hinge upon each other for development or catharsis, bringing to mind the haphazard yet superficially dazzling structures of Death’s The Sound of Perseverance. The fragmented nature of the music is compounded further by harsh edits that reflect a lack of cohesion and betrayal of the immediacy of metal, the latter of which is distanced all the more by the saccharine melodic pathos of certain passages which echo more the soundtrack of a spaghetti western than the conflict and resolution inherent in an underground metal release. Such a melodic development should hint at the narrative journey of a speaker through triumph and tragedy, but we are robbed of that due to the aforementioned missing vocal direction and the penchant for tonally unrelated parts cobbled together devoid of transitional unity.
What develops from this approach is a headbangable but intrinsically hollow release that achieves out of the guise of confidence one of the worst offenses in metal: tribute music, strained from a narrowing in character and the utterances of the ambitious yet inherently voiceless. Daniel Cochardo’s love of metal is on full display here and all the tropes are present, all the boxes ticked and all the horns raised, but without anything to unify the release there is nothing to hinge the essence of the material on aside from Cochardo’s melodic command. In that sense, an irony of this instrumental work is achieved whereas even if anchored vocally, all authoritative voicings would be muted by a resounding lack of communicative direction. Perhaps Conscious Creation-Phase II will provide a structuring that will in contrast bring a purpose to this release, but unless there is a greater focus on thematic relation, we will most likely receive another chapter in the one-dimensional strength of melody obscured by its downfall in relative isolation.