Chaos Divine’s new album, The Human Connection, is a more mature take on their previous music library. Gone are the raw edges, the rough vocal style, and the brutal blasts of chaos; instead, they are replaced with smooth precision. Whether that is a good or a bad thing remains to be seen.
Chaos Divine is a five piece technical heavy metal group that formed up in 2005. Coming out of Perth, Western Australia, their first recording effort - 2006’s EP Ratio - turned heads in the local metal community. Their next album, 2008’s Avalon, won quite a few state music awards, and was indeed a package of brutal beats and powerful polyrhythms (and an album I myself was extremely impressed with). The influences of one band in particular, Sweden’s revolutionaries Meshuggah, was quite prevalent in the album.
However, with The Human Connection, much of this raw brutality and technicality are gone. Possibly this is just a maturing of sound. More likely it has something to do with the mixing and mastering of the new record, in Sweden’s legendary Fascination Street Studios under the meister Jens Borgen (Soilwork, Opeth, Katatonia, Hammerfall, Eluveitie). While this studio is most certainly fantastic in terms of sound production, and the skills of Jens are without a doubt at the top of a field, he has a very distinctive touch. As such, this album sounds awfully like Soilwork – to the point where whenever a song from The Human Connection starts playing through my speakers, there’s always a few seconds hesitation as to whether I’m hearing Chaos Divine or a song from Stabbing the Drama, The Great Divide or The Panic Broadcast.
Now, there are two ways of looking at this. I myself am quite a fan of Soilwork, and so it’s not a ridiculously bad thing that Chaos Divine have progressed so far along the path of Soilwork’s sound. The smoothness of production, the emphasis on rich melodies, the softer touch to the album – these aren’t necessarily bad things. Indeed, there is still a fair bit about the album which is unique to Chaos Divine; there are still technical touches in the guitars and drums unheard in any Soilwork song, there is still originality in the songwriting; it’s not like the band have gone for a blatant copy of an established method (I think).
However, much of what attracted me to Avalon is, indeed, completely missing on The Human Connection. The hoarse, shouting style of singing has been almost completely replaced by clean-style singing. The power and brutality of the album, so evident on songs like ‘Contortion,' ‘Our Delusion’ and ‘Cages’ is missing, replaced by much heavier song-wide melodic structures. The guitar’s chugging, staccato style has been tuned out in the mix, replaced by ‘catchier’ sections and hooks, and the drums are far less distinctive. I can’t help wonder if in ‘evolving’ their sound in this way, Chaos Divine have perhaps destroyed the core elements of what made the band so popular within the underground metal communities; uncompromised power and ground-level authenticity.
Having said all this, there is certainly some good work still on the album. The standout song for me was ‘The Beaten Path,' a song with some genuine emotion-stirring ability and an epic chorus, and the longer track ‘No Road Home’ is quite memorable also. Still, in regards to this album, my advice is different to the norm: if you are a fan of more mainstream metal bands like Soilwork and In Flames, your odds of liking this album are increased – but fans of Chaos Divine and Avalon should definitely check out the MySpace before purchasing.