“Entering a Superior Realm” begins with light tremolo woven into an ephemeral crescendo with alternating iridescent horns, as if to usher in the slow rise of a silvery sun across the crescent horizon of a far-flung mystical world. At the prologue’s apex, tremolo gives way to white light flashes of distorted guitar and cosmic percussive cannonade. Abhorrent growls, ubiquitous as the blackness, quickly transform wonder to awe as the sun crests not the edge of an alien planet but the back of a colossal black hand, itself hurtling through the obsidian vastness, great swirling swaths of stardust trailing its fingertips. The coalescence of the instruments into heavy metal maelstrom shows the hand to be the diabolical instrument of a galactic sorcerer, incomprehensibly gargantuan, creating and destroying macrocosmos at will with illimitable arm swings of celestial alchemy.
My lame little attempt there at Tolkien meets Asimov merely describes the pictures that paint my creative consciousness when I close my eyes and listen to The Chasm’s seventh full length album at top volume. I hope it illustrates the point that the title of that opening track to Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm couldn’t be more fitting: We are small here. We live tiny little lives. The premise of the album is of one man’s transcending Life in embracing Death, an idea reflected in grand shaman Daniel Corchado’s lyrics and artwork, both of which are personal and cryptic. But that’s just as it ought to be, because it’s the music that adorns the mystical murals. The Chasm’s palette devotes great space to Swedish and Floridian death metal, as well as swirls of the visionary chord and riff structures of Arghoslent and the asymmetric melodies of Coroner. To say that The Chasm borrow from these bands, though, might be akin to accusing Van Gogh of aping Monet because he also used yellow. Both men are renowned masters of their art and, whereas The Chasm are far from renowned, they have undoubtedly fashioned a masterpiece in Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm.
These eight songs amount to a little more than an hour’s worth of elegantly brutal occult death metal. It is innovative, intricate and intriguing. It’s actually so much of these things that it would all be overwhelming if it weren’t so masterfully crafted and executed. The balance struck between ruinous rhythm and beauteous melody is nothing short of astonishing. Witness the relentlessly impelling leads of “Callous Spectre/Vehement Opposition” as they swarm and coil around a ruthlessly thunderous riff assault. The pairing of this monumental manifestation with the incendiary “Fiery Rebirth” constitutes a one-two punch for the ages as the latter takes the compelling melodies of the former and grinds them into a discordant amalgam of fear and abhorrence. The longest of the intro and outro devices of which The Chasm make ample use is the 106 second de facto title track, whose lead reminds of Kirk Hammett’s on “Fade to Black”. All of these manage to avoid cliché by making proper utility of mood and atmosphere to formally set the stage for their respective tracks. And, while much of Farseeing… gallops along at breakneck speed, “Vault to the Voyage” ratchets it back just a few notches, allowing melody and serpentine leads to draw a panorama of concurring bewilderment and fortitude at the precipice of Death. “The Promised Ravage” brings just that and “The Mission/Arrival to Hopeless Shores (Calling the Paranormal Abysm)” is every bit the epic it purports to be, bringing the album full circle to the Beginning portended by the End.
The tone of the instruments on this album is perfect. It’s hard to imagine the formula that would better capture the mysticism of the album’s premise and still retain the poignant punch demanded in the realm of the Heavy. Just a few seconds into the first track it becomes apparent that this is the sort of production job that not only allows the pieces to work together, but fuses them so resolutely that they resemble something of a sentient being. Of course, such a statement is testament to the strength of the players. Every song on Farseeing… features impeccable musicianship on the part of each of the members. When debating how best to describe the intricacy of the music on this record, I envisioned the double helix of DNA. There are an incalculable number of elements at work on such a structure and, despite this, each of these operates in impossibly tight orchestration with the others, giving rise to unimaginably complex yet cohesive outcomes. The Chasm’s erudite songwriting and dexterous musicianship allow them to achieve just such a feat without so much as a hint that there was any work involved at all, it comes off so incredibly naturally.
If I try really hard, I can imagine there might be a couple of complaints about Farseeing… The vocals are neither savage nor blood curdling. And the songs can tend to spiral in and out of themselves without quite reaching the definitive resolution some listeners need. Both of these are likely by design and reflect the nature of the album’s theme. The vocals sound like those of a man on a spiritual quest – frightened, angry, desperate, determined. They don’t appear to be processed except for some reverb that accentuates their placement behind the music in making them seem far away, small in an infinitely larger realm. The circularity of the songwriting captures the fleeting, ephemeral nature of the quest, where resolution is rare. When considered within the whole of the album’s context, Farseeing… has no obvious weakness.
I’m always uncomfortable talking about “best” albums, a term that necessitates sometimes dodgy comparisons of too dissimilar records. There are just too many criteria and too many individual differences to account for in such an endeavor. I will not hesitate to say that Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm is as close to perfect an album as I’ve ever heard. I’m comfortable saying this because I feel when I listen to this record the same way I feel when I listen to my favorite heavy metal albums ever. I’ll never forget the transforming experience of coming to know The Number of the Beast and I’m amazed to this day, twenty-seven years later (WTF?!), at how incredible that album is. The Chasm have imprinted their latest on the heavy metal module of my brain just as strongly. In future years, when Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm starts showing up on all the “best ever” lists (the good ones, anyway), you definitely want to be one of the metalheads that had this album way before those lists came out. In short, it is absolutely mandatory.