Review Summary: While not nearly as good as the bands next release 'The Human Connection' Avalon showcases a extremely promising debut from one of the most unique and surprising acts in australia's dying metal scene.
If there's one thing Australia is always acclaimed for in music, it's the hardcore scene. Hardcore bands seem to come and go all the time each with as much acclaim as the last. I, being a hardcore fan, am proud to have such a great local scene but there are times where the same style of music gets slightly stale with more listens and when you need a break. I found out about Chaos Divine when looking for Australian artists that weren't apart of the hardcore scene. I had originally listened to 'The Human Connection before this album due to the entire youtube stream and couldn't believe the bands tight musicianship, atmospheric production and great balance of light and dark textures. Knowing that Avalon was a heavier album and The Human Connection was quite different, I had my expectations, but had silenced them as much as possible during the albums duration. If there's one thing I can say now about Avalon is that it certainly is heavier, but not necessarily better.
The album is primarily a slightly progressive melodic death metal album. Having not heard much death metal at the time of my first listen of the album the vocals put me off, but unlike a lot of death and black metal bands the vocals are easily understood and they manage to be pulled off quite well with the screams ranging in speed, length and heaviness throughout most of the songs. Clean vocals are well produced in an atmospheric way without sacrificing much rawness, interplay between the two happen often and is done quite well, providing a really good mix of light and dark textures, especially towards some of the lighter choruses and bridges some of the songs contain. Avalon manages to have interesting vocal work from beginning to end, even during the lighter moments.
As a debut the musicianship is quite technical and surprising, but one of the major things that let this aspect of the album down is the production. It doesn't necessarily hurt the musicianship but hides them behind the vocals and makes things sound much less heavy compared to what they would be played live. It's like listening to drowned out music underneath much louder vocals, which causes the guitar and drum performances to be less appreciable unless they are without vocals over the top. This never became a real big annoyance, but one that certainly harms the album rather than aids it. The guitar performances are brilliant and never get boring, even when repetitive riffs start to become an annoyance the band will quickly burst into a solo or a more interesting riff in order to never allow boredom to sink in. Drumming is about as competent, many snare rolls are used at the beginning of songs and changes come quick when things start to feel repetitive.
Lyrics deal with human struggle and acceptance of loss. The song 'Contortion' Manages to be a good example of the kind of themes the band manage to explore throughout the album.
'We chase the past at the cost of the present
And lose what is here
This sentimental dream is our master
Nostalgia replacing truth'
The lyrics may not always suit the heavier tone of the album, but they managed to keep me thinking about aspects of life such as 'problems' that we all believe are big in our childhood but end up being something incredibly childish in out later years. Again, nothing exceptional, but solid work and managed to cause me to think which is always a positive.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the album is that the much more extreme songs on the album aren't nearly as memorable as some of the much more atmospheric songs and while 'Refuse The Sickness' is a stellar track, I find the finisher 'Alone In The Sky' and the title track to be much more memorable, with no harsh vocals being used in 'Alone In The Sky' and simple yet effective guitar work it seems strange that the band were better when they weren't sounding angry.
In the end I thought to myself while Avalon isn't nearly as good as 'The Human Connection' it shows that the band had progressed for the better and hopefully will continue to do so.