Review Summary: You won't complain to the chef, but you also won't come back for seconds.
As fervently as I defend the oft-derided modern progressive scene, it has undeniably spawned legions of copycats intent on pushing a trite formula to the limit. There’s a veritable crowd of little league artists in a relatively small ballpark, where many simply copy the big name player’s signature moves and hope it will get them noticed. For better or worse, Colliding Skies
has it all – big vocal hooks, talented yet restrained instrumentals, light/dark interplay; every skill popularized by the forerunners of the progressive sphere. Most importantly however, there’s a light touch of left-field experimentation that separates these Australians from the competition.
From the pounding waves of ‘Painted With Grey’ to the soothing current of ‘Tides’ and everything in between, the album ebbs and flows with a comfort that makes back-to-back listening a simple task. Even the occasional abrupt shift in direction doesn’t feel like a hindrance because of how smoothly most of these tracks play out – it’s at the exact moment you wish they’d shake things up a bit that the band blindsides you with an unexpectedly chunky riff. The metallic elements that overpowered the mix in past releases are now integrated admirably, and while this new tone is more derivative of popular acts, the diversity gives it an edge over their past releases when looked at from a birds-eye view. Chaos Divine have succeeded on paper, but the problem lies in the composition of the album. The band becomes too content, letting the album continue to ebb through the midsection without paying attention to how far the tide is going out. ‘The Shepherd’ provides a late resurgence, and the powerful closer continues to push the shoreline forward, but it can’t make up the ground lost from the earlier lethargy. The band is never lazy, and no songs are completely one-dimensional and boring, but that stagnancy catches a band that simply doesn’t respond quickly enough.
When Chaos Divine are firing on all cylinders, it really is something to behold. There are distinct gold flecks shining in the gravel, but it hasn’t been separated from the soil and refined. The magnificent saxophone solo that ends the album screams “potential”, but it hasn’t been realized here. There is certainly enough meat to sate listeners, but not enough flavour to keep you coming back for more, and in a culture of rapid consumption, the flavour is paramount to success. It’s proof that doing just
enough isn’t really enough.