Review Summary: Let the record play. Let the record play. Reworking my reality. Transcending practicality. Let the record play....
Seminal emotional hardcore band, Orchid, were known for their arresting intensity, and conspicuous passion. Years later their influence still permeates the genre, living on even in today's screamo/hardcore scene. How, might you ask? How could such an obscure band, whose lifespan only lasted half a decade, create such an impact? Well, to put it simply, Orchid had "it."
This "it" factor so to speak was the amalgamation of passion and perfection. The brazen intensity mixed with the apparent love of what they were accomplishing propelled Orchid to their legendary status. Few bands can truly ever achieve this sentiment, but Orchid certainly did, and it only took one release. Everything that Orchid was, both physical and metaphorical, can be heard through their music, And that is simply why they have been held in such high regards over the years. It's a special thing when one can completely understand a band by simply listening, and "Chaos Is Me" is the musical personification of Orchid.
With a superficial listen, "Chaos Is Me" may come off as cacophonous, abrasive noise. The indecipherable screams are met with a some very heavy and distorted guitar work. And the drums completely kill as Jeff Salane seemingly looses all sanity. However, this all sounds so incredible because of one man: Kurt Ballou. Ballou is a legend in the music business, and it's not a difficult task to see why. As the guitarist for legendary band Converge, Ballou transcends fame and status, becoming somewhat of an icon. However, not only is he known for his performance prowess, but also what he is able to do in the studio. Ballou has been producing in his Godcity Studio for years, partaking in acts such as Pg. 99, Cave In, and Gospel. Needless to say, the man is prolific. And while the indelible amount of praise he receives is seemingly bloated, Ballou truly deserves his status. Because of him, "Chaos Is Me" sounds raw, edgy, and perfect. Everything sounds so brazenly clear, while at the same time so disgustingly mangled. It's a beautiful thing, and because of this attention to detail, "Chaos Is Me" is me is a complete success.
"Chaos Is Me" is more than the sum of it's parts. The intro to "Le Desordre C'est Moi" is tense. The hit of a woodblock is accompanied by the screeching of strings. Interestingly, this is taken from an orchestral work called "Metastasis" by Iannis Xenakis. This leads into an explosive barrage of guitar and screams that doesn't let up until the song's conclusion. It's moments like these that make the album such a jovial experience. And truly, there are moments like these throughout, thanks to the album's incredible pace. Never for a second do things let up. Even in the more subdued and vulnerable parts, "Chaos Is Me" is still intense. "New Jersey Vs. Valhalla" is a highlight, as it encompasses what makes the album, and Orchid as a whole, so damn impressive. The slower, more instrumental beginning sets a much darker tone, which is only bolstered by Jayson Greene's tormented vocal performance. Greene also happens to be the band's lyricist. His writing seems tortured, while also metaphorical.
On the surface, "Chaos is Me" is perfect. It's angry while at the same time perfectly contained, and truly, it has quite a lot to say. Yet it lacks the variety one would hope. "New Jersey Vs. Valhalla" offers some freshness, but other than that, many of the album's songs sort of run together. A mild gripe, but it keeps the work as a whole from reaching true perfection. Added to that, "Chaos Is Me" is not very accessible. The rough production and incredibly coarse sound can easily turn many people away.
Yet Orchid's time has passed. They've ended up in the sea of influential bands whose time was far too short lived. While many will reap the benefits of their short existence by hearing what they've helped create, most will never truly accept or understand Orchid. A tragic sentiment. But for those who discover "Chaos Is Me" will be treated to a truly legendary, and unforgettable piece of work.