By Christopher Nosnibor
Chrome may have a reputation based on their being the progenitors of industrial rock, and with Helios Creed steering the band since joining in 1976 (the band originated with drummer and vocalist Damon Edge in 1975 who took inspiration from influences as divergent as proto-Punk pioneers such as The Stooges, to sound art experimentation like the work of John Cage and Allan Kaprow) but such a narrative is painfully reductive, ultimately, not least of all on account of the band’s numerous phases.
Chrome have long incorporated myriad elements within their music, forging a uniquely hybridised sound, and since the band’s reconvergence with Helios at the helm following Edge’s death in 1995 (remaining active between 1997 and 2001 and again more recently). Feel it Like a Scientist certainly probes and grinds its ways down a number of different avenues, powering headlong in many different directions with an energy that’s at times quite bewildering.
It’s pretty crazy shit – just the way you’d want it from a band who’ve spent over 40 years at the cutting edge of exploratory psychedia and warped rock. As soon as you’ve acclimatized to the burning guitar crunch, the synths screech in and dominate and lead the track on a twisted sci-fi prog path… and then a swell of noise like a jet engine roaring for take-off obliterates everything, and even that, in turn, is swallowed by distortion and a slow sonic disintegration that reveals everything else is still going on underneath. And that’s only the first track. Help us, indeed!
Feel It Like a Scientist is an album that never lets up on the throbbing bass, pumping percussion and solid guitars, all providing a backdrop for the dirty gothic croon of Creed’s vocals. ‘Prophecy’ sounds like a Sabbath track played backwards while someone rides a motrobike through the studio… and then a thudding metal-edged fuzz guitar slices in and Creed croons low and throaty. The sinister overtones of his grinding vox is countered by the helium-filled backing vocals on the bicker rock thud of ‘Lady Feline.’ The only other bands that could possibly pull off a track like this are Melvins and Butthole Surfers, but of course, Chrome were there first by quite some margin (and the latter have openly cited Chrome, not surprisingly, as an influence on their crazed take on the ‘rock’ sound).
‘Lipstick’ crosses Krautrock with Heavy Rock, and spaced-out synth weirdness collides with frenetic percussion and gritty guitars on the robotix metal of ‘Something in the Clouds,’ which actually boasts a fair hook, too. Elsewhere, ‘Six’ sounds like Danzig playing the Bond theme on some heavy psychotropic drugs. It’s just a pity Danzig don’t actually sound this way. ‘Captain Bosun’ is a work of freaky space rock à la Gong with a heavy dash of Scott Walker. Crazy? Of course, and it works brilliantly. An insistent rhythm, strolling bassline and a mess of fucked-up distortion and noise are the main ingredients for ‘Cyberchondia.’ The album’s final track, ‘Nymph Droid’ slowly drifts on a cloud of ambience and transports the listener out of the room altogether.
It’s a cracking album that’s simultaneously coherent and diverse, and far from being the sound of some old has-beens going through the motions, it’s a challenging and exhilarating work. Longstanding fans won’t be disappointed by the high standard that’s maintained throughout, or the mania that drives the album, and for those unacquainted with the band (where have you been?), it’s a most appealing port of entry – as long as you’re up for getting your brain bent a little.
Feel it Like a Scientist will be released on August 5 by King of Spades