Review Summary: A masterfully executed follow-up to an already-superb album, Chrome was Catherine Wheel at the top of their game.
There are quite a few album covers out there that flawlessly encapsulate the atmosphere and/or mood of the music contained. Chrome
has one of said covers. The darkened underwater environment, coupled with three swimmers posing together in some abstract formation, along with the small sliver of what seems to be a neighborhood or apartment complex cresting the very top of the image. This album certainly has a distinct atmosphere, and this cover is a fine representation of the sound that the band so expertly masters, mixing dream-like euphoria with darkened paranoia, all with a heavily distorted and reverb-drenched tinge.
It’s not like Catherine Wheel established their sound with Chrome
, either. Ferment
was considered their supposed magnum opus, with the extremely successful lead-single “Black Metallic”. Chrome
is more appropriately described as a perfection of their established sound, as the band’s metallic shoegaze is refined in terms of both intensity and melodic-content. Every element that made Ferment
so memorable and enjoyable is amplified in this release, and it certainly makes sense why the two are often compared as their best work.
Rob Dickinson’s vocal style is largely unchanged, but as with the style and instrument, is subtly improved. His distinct, breathy singing is still the forefront, but the lead melodies are further developed, especially on moments such as the chorus from “I Confess”, in which the lead and secondary vocal parts flawlessly compliment the chord progression, and as a result, the harmony produced is sublime. Trust me when I say that this is one of the more unique and frankly excellent voices in all of rock music.
The songwriting is significantly more aggressive than that displayed on Ferment, and the alternative rock and grunge-influenced element to their music is given a bigger light. That’s not to say that there isn’t a fair amount of laid-back, lullaby-infused balladry, as some of these songs are even more relaxed than softer songs from the previous release. “The Nude” is one of the more beautiful arrangements of the album, and certainly a highlight. The song manages to keep the textured distortion and intensity characterized by the majority of the band’s music while having a soaring and gorgeous, almost orchestral sounding harmony during the chorus.
Catherine Wheel have truly pushed their sound to its ultimate potential on this record, and it’s quite surprising that the band is relatively unknown and under-appreciated nowadays. Regardless, both Ferment
are absolutely essential within the shoegaze genre, and I can say without hesitation that this release was one of the best albums to come out of the 90’s, with an accessible, original, and heavy take on the overall sound of the alternative rock and metal pertaining to that decade.