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THE HUMAN CONNECTION

Chaos Divine

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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4 stars A really interesting album, full of high quality moments. Personally the first track 'one door', is my absolute favourite offering some great rhythmic exploration and the contrast between the main ideas fits together really well. The lyrics are tasteful and the singer has a interestingly satisfying tone and is quite explosive when he gets down to the grit. The production on the album is amazing, provided by none other than Jens Bogren. After being sucked in by the first track, and the rest of the album equally as engaging, I would highly recommend this album to all progressive lovers.

4.5 Stars

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Send comments to Phiz (BETA) | Report this review (#682735)
Posted Sunday, March 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars [b]Preface[/b]

I remember a while ago, I tried to compile all my thoughts on Chaos Divine's [i]The Human Connection[/i]. I distinctly remember thinking "when I finally finish this, this is going to be one of the longest reviews I've ever attempted". I had so many individual opinions on individual aspects, down to the very fact that this tiny five-piece from Perth are the proud owners of what I call the second greatest metal album ever made (Opeth's [i]Still Life[/i] has the true honour, for those wondering), and my opinions on the first five songs of this release as possibly the greatest sequence of songs ever. For hours I used to think about this album, and the thought of actually reviewing it scared me.

So, naturally, I was a bit worried when my random number generator told me I had to have a review completed and published by Saturday, but procrastination has been my enemy in this 'writing' business, so I'm already at it. You see, I realise how mediocre I am as a reviewer, and how little people will value my opinions unless I keep a rigid schedule and a distinctive style within my reviews. I am currently going through all of my 5-star albums and telling the internet why I think those 21 (subject to change) albums deserve that incredibly high score.

And that's sort of why I feel I need to gain some level of credibility. Not that I deserve any, or you should give me any, but whenever I see a 5-star review, especially on an underground release, I'll check back through the reviewer's past ratings, to see if they give lots of 5 stars. And to be honest, 9 times out of 10, I'm right, they either just give tons of high ratings or (god forbid), they have only rated 10 albums, all by that same artist, and all highly. Because I feel that 5 stars is something special, and I want you to know that I do not give 5 stars lightly, and [i]The Human Connection[/i] is not just an album I'm hyping because I'm mates with the band and I'll get a free beer out of it. This album thoroughly deserves this rating and you should definitely hear it.

This all brings back to my idea that RYM should be rated based on standard deviation, since every rater is different, but this isn't an essay about my opinions on statistical analysis. No, this is a foreshadowing of the review to come, that this album is one of the 21, the 1.77% of albums I have bestowed with this honour, and that it truly and honestly deserves it. It took even me a while to convince it was worthy, but I think it honestly is. And now, as a final note on this preface, this review is long. This may be the longest and most incohesive thing I have ever written. It doesn't really get anywhere, aside from to ensure my opinions are valid by consistently justifying them. So, if you simply want to know whether or not you should buy this album:

You should.

[b]Background[/b]

[i]The Human Connection[/i] is Chaos Divine's 2nd full length album, or 3rd release including the EP Ratio, the band have been active in Perth, Australia since 2006, playing support for such bands Slayer, Mastodon, Trivium and Between The Buried And Me. Even though The Human Connection was my introduction to the 5-piece, I have since heard both Avalon and Ratio, and with the added background knowledge, I can in fact say that this is an even greater feat, since none of their earlier albums share in [i]The Human Connection[/i]'s greatness.

It seems Chaos Divine built their earlier releases on a mix of metalcore and melodic death metal, and even though it is undoubtedly better than most music in the metalcore style, the horrible vocals and generic production put me off completely. [i]Ratio[/i] sounds like an EP from an upcoming band should, but I never would have guessed them to produce such a masterpiece 5 years later. [i]Avalon[/i] shows some promise when the guitars stop chugging and the vocals reach into Anderton's much nicer cleans, but again it simply feels like an above average melodic metalcore album, not the foreshadowing of a prog metal epic.

[b]Genre[/b]

In preparation for this review, I visited Chaos Divine's facebook page, to get a bit of info on their formation etc, but I noticed a striking difference.

"Progressive Heavy Rock"

This is new. I am unaware of whether this is a foreshadowing of their upcoming 3rd full-length, but it appears that Chaos Divine are distancing them from metal completely. Although a good move, this album is most definitely metal, but as much as they seem to be drastically exiting the realm of metal with their 3rd, they left the realm of metalcore on their 2nd. I often stated that this is simply a "heavy prog" album with growls, but the band take so much influence from melodic death metal in their textural riffing, it's hard not to call this metal.

[i]The Human Connection[/i] is a progressive metal album through and through. I'll get to the instrumentation later, but this is not something I expect from a metalcore band, even an experimental and progressive one.

Now, despite that little tag in the secondary genres here, "djent", don't let that put you off. I swear to god everyone who voted for that is deaf, because there is almost none of that horrendously ugly tone in this piece, and even "math metal" is very scarce here, sans a couple of bars in "Invert Evolution".

[b]Vocals[/b]

One of the dividing aspect of many music listeners in terms of death metal and metalcore is clearly the vocals, with some (including myself to a certain extent) completely turned off by harsh vocals, even to the point of disregarding the music completely. I like to think of myself as somewhat more open than this, but even then, there are bands (*cough* Between The Buried And Me) who cover their music so much in ugly vocals that appreciating the melody underneath is difficult. On both [i]Avalon[/i] and [i]Ratio[/i], this was an obstacle for me. Anderton's vocals on those releases were too close to the metalcore shriek for my comfort, often overpowering the music. And although he has significantly better cleans than most metalcore bands, they were few and far between on those releases.

And although, looking through my ratings and reviews, you can see there are plenty of releases that utilise harsh vocals in my favourites, I have never been a fan of them. Most of those albums I love in spite of their vocals, not because of. Opeth, The Human Abstract, Epica, Insomnium, would all be better in my eyes sans the harsh vocals, but I learn to tolerate them due to the incredibly musical qualities behind them.

But this album is even more special to me, because this is the only album in the history of time that I can honestly say I love the harsh vocals. They are fantastic. They are so rich, so utterly deep, and despite the title, not actually that harsh. Particularly evident in the chorus of "One Door" and throughout "Invert Evolution", but they truly are something different. They are not only tolerable, but enjoyable. If you still haven't got a grasp on harsh vocals, hear these first, and you might be able to find a different view.

But the best part of the vocals on [i]The Human Connection[/i] is how well they're placed. I admire bands who know when to place harsh vocals, and Chaos Divine have most certainly done it well here. There are no extensive harsh sections without justification, and it definitely feels as if the tone is justified. Even mixed vocal titans Opeth don't nail it, in my opinion, with some of their longer songs, especially on the very highly rated [i]Blackwater Park[/i], feel as if the death growls carry on for too long, and without a melodic break, it can feel drained. Although I have a couple of very small nitpicks, the vocals here are generally well-placed, and it obviously helps that Anderton has a stunning clean voice and a keen eye for a solid vocal hook.

[b]Use of 4:3 Polyrhythms [/b] There is a rather odd convention that is encompassing the so-called 'progressive' realms of music, that being 'progressive' means using odd meters, and that using odd meters makes you progressive. Perhaps popularised by time-bending bands such as Dream Theater, I'm not exactly sure this is the case. I can listen to a "djent" album, with 150 time signature changes per song, and be impressed at how good the band is at maths and remembering numbers, but it hardly makes good music. I, for one, am far more impressed by a band who can hold a steady meter of 7 or 5, without it sounding odd than one who can switch from 7 to 3 to 11 to π in a matter of seconds. I feel that if you can be complex, but keep a hold on the actual music, that has far more value than complexity for the sake of it.

Now, I'm not to say that Chaos Divine doesn't use odd signatures on this, there's obviously that 9/4 (actually 4/4, 5/4) one at the start of "At The Ringing Of The Siren" and that consistent recurring 15/8 beat that comes throughout "Chasing Shadows", but what really strikes me here is some of the most excellent and thought-provoking use of 4:3 polyrhythms I have ever heard. Now, those who know music know that 4:3 and 3:2 are the most simple polyrhythmic devices, and are actually very common amongst a wide range of genres, but the way Chaos Divine use them here, without you even noticing, is beyond me.

For those new to music theory, you'll probably notice us theory faggots raving about 5/4 and 7/8 and 13/16, but you'll probably notice that the bottom number (denominator, if you must) is always a power of 2. You know, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc. The basic explanation is that 13/16 means one bar is equal to thirteen sixteenth notes, where a sixteenth note is 1/16th of a whole note, set in the tempo. Now, what many people wonder is; can I have a 6th note? Or a 3rd note? Or even an 11th note? And even though you never see it written, ever, you actually can. When, in a bar of 4/4, you instead switch to triplets, you are in fact changing the time signature to 3/3 or 6/6, or even 12/12, but for some reason we don't write this. But what if you change to triplets, but instead of having three of them, you have four, but they're still triplet measures. This is 4/3, and is possibly my favourite time signature. A lot of composers will write this as a change in tempo, but at an exact ratio of 4:3, for example from 120 to 90, but for all intents and purposes, this is 4/3.

Now, what on earth's this got to do with [i]The Human Connection[/i]? Well, I promise that I'm leading to something, not just rambling in hopes of writing my longest review yet, but I believe this is what Chaos Divine have accomplished, on the track "The Beaten Path" and again on "Chasing Shadows". The very abrupt, but seemingly natural tempo changes, are in fact groove changes from 4/4 to 4/3. I have not measured this, so I can't be certain, but it most certainly seems possible, given the constant use of the 4:3 poly throughout the album. Both of these tempo changes are amongst some of the best moments on the album, especially during "Chasing Shadows", although I wish it stuck with it a bit longer before regressing to the main tempo.

I was originally planning on going track-by-track on this album, but the amount of times I talked about these rhythms in the original draft was too much, so I've shoved them all into this section. "The Beaten Path" is the first time we properly hear this, in the intro you can hear a beat of 4 on the cymbal whereas the riff is in 6. This continues throughout the piece, with the majority being in 12/8, allowing consistent switches between 3 and 4. My absolute favourite part is during the solo, one of only 3 (I think) solos on this record, where the use of triplets in an already compound timing (therefore making it 36/24 signature(!) ), with the drum following along, creating a truly wonderful effect.

I have already mentioned the 15/8 meter that appears throughout "Chasing Shadows", but it's the final incarnation of it that I'm most intrigued by. It took me about 20 listens to finally work out the signature of this riff, and mainly due to the fact I realised it fitted directly over the 15/8 section earlier in the song. The riff, split into segments, is as such: 3 bars of 3/3, 1 bar of 3/4, which adds up to 15, if using 4 as your base. I realise how much right now I sound like one of those Meshuggah fans who orgasms to drum beats, but you've got to admit it's cool.

"Beautiful Abyss" also has some deliciously good 3 and 4 play, with the quick background riffs switching regularly. One of my favourite riffs is the final one before the epic "transcend", which I have honestly got no idea what it is (I wrote in my notes that it's 8:6, 3:2 fitting into 4/4, but I think that's wrong). More of the switching during 12/8 occurs during "Astral Plane".

[b]The Big 5[/b]

This is the term I use collectively for the first five songs on this album, five of the most incredibly explosive, melodic, and frankly brilliant songs I have ever heard. Not that the others aren't good, it's just that these stand out. In fact, given that most of these five share the same basic structure (sans "Beautiful Abyss", I think), the variation from the rest of the album is necessary.

All five of these have a heavy basis around what is easily my favourite part of music ? vocal hooks. I'm a sucker for a good hook. I don't care how good you are at guitar, how many notes you can hit or how brvtal your growling is, nothing, I repeat nothing, beats a decent vocal hook in my books. It's saved so many albums for me, from being mediocre crap to being phenomenally catchy. And the great thing about [i]The Human Connection[/i] is that, as much as I can write about polyrhythms or balancing genres or whatever, at heart, this release is based on good [%*!#]ing songs. The rest comes later. Make a decent song first, then pile your prog crap all over it. And these five all have incredibly solid bases.

Don't tell me that the chorus of "At The Ringing Of The Siren" doesn't tickle your spine like a child hearing "November Rain" for the first time? Don't tell you don't want to chant "THIS DEFECT IS A GIFT, TURN RESENTMENT TO UPLIFT" whenever it comes on. This, at the core, is good, emotional, heartfelt music. It doesn't require a musical brain to enjoy, but if you have one, then there's more to find.

[b]Beautiful Abyss[/b]

Ok, I lied when I said I wasn't going to do track-by-track, but I just need to for this one, because I think it's one of the greatest songs ever written. It's part of "The Big 5", so naturally hooks are big on this one, but it's the structuring that gets me the most. Although it's a pretty new structure, the first four all seem to have the same structure ? Intro-Verse-PreChorus-Bridge-Chorus-2ndBridge-Prechorus-Chorus-Outro.

The "second bridge" is actually quite interesting, and although Chaos use the 3 chorus repeats that a lot of bands use, the idea of not having repeating verses is definitely new. But in any case, "Beautiful Abyss" is different. It is a song in two acts. Act I is from the start to around 2:42. And it's nice. I've mentioned the great use of 3 and 4 in the riffs, and it's definitely well-layered. The much more melodeath inspired

But the second act is where it goes big. A break. Tight riffing, build up.

"Don't wait at the water's edge, it's time to step into the unknown blue. As time moves along, we forget that we belong to something bigger."

And it just gets bigger.

"To know what is and what will be, to see with more than sensory. The song you'll sing is certainty, this journey begins."

And back down?

"Move into the mist, this beautiful abyss, it liberates you?"

And then it explodes. Many will cite crescendocore bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions In The Sky for examples of bringing emotion to the surface using build-up, but I think this nails it so much better. Transcend.

(PS I was totally right about that riff)

[b]Invert Evolution [/b] This is not the best song on the album, but I think it most certainly needs a mention, because it's the most unique. I mentioned earlier that Chaos are great with their vocals because they know when to use harsh and clean, well I think this proves that they also know how many heavy tracks are needed. This isn't just heavy, it's crushing. This is possibly my favourite heavy song of all time, and it's because it's so condensed. Many bands set out to make every song more br00tal than the last, but Chaos Divine here have realised that you only really need one heavy track, and put all their effort into making it [%*!#]ing sick.

I often talk about correct uses of the breakdown in my reviews. The breakdown is possibly the most incorrectly used musical device ever, because most bands that use it fire it everywhere, and most other bands avoid it completely. The fact that the best use of the breakdown I've ever heard isn't even from a metal band (Porcupine Tree on "Anesthetise") is pretty sad, but the breakdown on this track is phenomenal. It's so hard that I regularly stop what I'm doing whenever it drops. Even the borderline djent guitars are acceptable here.

[b]And finally,

What's Wrong With It[/b]

This was my justification for that full 5 stars. Although [i]The Human Connection [/i]isn't perfect, there really doesn't seem to be anything actually wrong with it. Sure, "Astral Plane" can't hold a candle to any of the other tracks, but I can't exactly say anything's wrong with it, it's just not a stand-out. The production on this album is fantastic and it fits the genre, the songwriting is excellent, the complexity is justified, the performances are all fantastic.

But I've made a list of things I don't like about it anyway, to prove that this really deserved 5 stars.

"Beautiful Abyss" and "Astral Plane" both have fade-outs, which I don't like.

The big riff in "No Road Home" is in 17/4 when it doesn't need to be, and it's kinda off-putting.

The last growled section in "The Beaten Path" should be sung.

The solo in "Astral Plane" is pretty generic.

Um.

Yeah that's it.

[b]Conclusion[/b]

This is not a groundbreaking album. It doesn't really break any new ground, but what it does is take ground that has been broken and perfect it. This is exactly what a metal album should be. It's sometimes complex, sometimes heavy, sometimes melodic, but underneath all this extra stuff is the core that so many bands are missing, plain compositionship, and this album has buckets of it.

This review is easily the longest thing I've written as a music critic thus far, and I couldn't think of a better album to deserve it. I'm wearing my Chaos Divine shirt today, which cost me an arm and a leg to get, and listening to [i]The Human Connection[/i] one last time before publishing this review. I have made the right decision. This is what a metal album should sound like. This is it.

[b]9.5[/b]

Originally posted at rateyourmusic.com and www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

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Send comments to Gallifrey (BETA) | Report this review (#827108)
Posted Monday, September 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock and Crossover Teams
4 stars Tech metal and I don't have a good track history. Among other encounters, I wasn't a fan of Enslaved last year, and Persefone's latest felt like a waste of time for me. Yet, there's something about Chaos Divine that I really like. I can't place my finger on it: Well, maybe I can...

There is one major difference between this band and other tech metal bands: melody. That's right, Chaos Divine puts a lot of effort into great atmospheres and also amazing keyboards, too. The keys always permeate the thick metallic style of the band, and create textures that are simply outstanding. On top of this, the clean vocalist has a great voice that harmonizes with the music very well.

This album also features a harsh vocalist, but I actually don't mind him at all. Usually, harsh vocals are a big no-no for me, but this guy sounds much like one of the vocalists from alternative metal band Mushroomhead, a favorite from my unwise youth. However, these harsh vocals are used rather appropriately, and they have a tinge of nostalgia for me.

The metal music is done very tastefully, as well. The drumming isn't overbearing, though it is done with great skill. The guitarist is rather talented as he utilizes a lot of strong riffing and also ambient guitar styles to achieve a powerful presence, unlike many other tech metal bands where the guitar ends up being nothing but white noise.

All of these components form a melodic, powerful experience that shows restraint appropriately, and isn't afraid to explore slower styles, either. I think my favorite tracks are "The Beaten Path", "Beautiful Abyss", "Silence", and the epic of sorts, "No Road Home". When hearing these tracks, you might not even realize they are considered tech metal, and that's just fine with me.

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Send comments to Second Life Syndrome (BETA) | Report this review (#1000835)
Posted Thursday, July 18, 2013 | Review Permalink

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