ISA – Chimera (Review)

ISAISA is a one man death metal project from the US and this is his debut album.

Chimera contains 41 minutes of music that draws from a twisted death metal base, but builds progressive, technical, and psychedelic elements into it. This basic description really doesn’t do this album justice, however.

This is a rich and multifaceted release, with many different types of delivery across the music. You could be listening to something acoustic that sounds like part of a Neurosis song one minute, before descending into the type of technical, dissonant nightmare that would make Pyrrhon proud. At other moments it’s as if the spirit of Atheist has been invoked, while at others Chimera firmly channels the experimental nature of Cynic. Or maybe you might like a touch of The Faceless here and there?

An album like this would have been very easy to allow to wander off on its own, exploring all manner of soundscapes and musical avenues, resulting in long, drawn-out expansive songs. Chimera, however, keeps a tight rein on this kind of experimentation, and the songs are generally a lot shorter than you might imagine. The artist has clearly developed a focused vision for what he wants to achieve, constraining himself to the essential elements to achieve his goals. This doesn’t mean that the songs aren’t wide-ranging and varied, however, as this is an album that very definitely is more than just one type of thing.

Yep, there really is a lot going on here. It’s a dense and layered album, one which doesn’t give up its secrets willingly or easily. Complex and intricate, with an atypical aggression and the type of lurching, unusual delivery that sounds like it shouldn’t work, but actually really does, Chimera is an appropriately named beast.

There’s a lot of juxtaposition of styles and influences on this album, with straightforward parts and complex, non-standard ones frequently being delivered at pretty much the same time, melted together into some form of hard-to-penetrate whole. As I alluded to above, this is an album that’s quite cerebral in many ways and requires time and effort to truly break into and appreciate. It’s worth it though.

Whether it’s being atmospheric or aggressive, or usually some combination of both simultaneously, Chimera is a dizzying, dazzling monster, with so many different aspects and personalities it can be quite bewildering to the uninitiated. The artist behind this certainly seems to know what he’s doing, however, and rather than a disjointed mess, the music comes together remarkably well, taking the listener on a less-travelled path into the experimental, exotic extreme metal wilderness.

So take a chance on this, and get lost in the tangled, intense world of ISA.

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