Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: Surgeon - Chemical Reign (2013)

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Chemical Reign

Surgeon - Chemical Reign
It's a bit of a stretch to consider Surgeon's new album, Chemical Reign, to be a Doom or Gothic metal release, but there are just enough hints of those two styles in the band's progressive sound to warrant a few sentences here at Harvest Moon Music. Hailing from Philadelphia, the band - which includes ex-Rumpelstiltskin Grinder drummer Ruston Grosse - generated considerable praise for their 2008 debut album and elicited comparisons to outfits such as Pharoah and Slough Feg. While I think Surgeon is quite a bit more progressive in nature than those bands, there's certainly enough similarity present for fans to take interest.

Besides riffs that tend to linger in mid-tempo territory, the Doomiest aspect to Chemical Reign is to be found in the vocal style of singer/bassist Sean Bolton. He sings with a sense of despair that will seem familiar to fans of traditional Doom. Though there isn't much variety to his style, Bolton adds depth to his performance through effective layering and the occasional use of harsh vocals - such as on album opener and highlight "The Creeple". His presence on "Animals" is also quite interesting and is one of the most engaging aspects of Chemical Reign.

The gloomy atmosphere of tracks like "The Creeple" is bolstered by guitarist Lydia Giordano's menacing riffs. Her style is a little more flashy than you'd expect if Surgeon were to bill themselves as a Doom outfit, but she tends to forgo technical wankery in favor of pure metal sizzle. The latter half of Chemical Reign does find Giordano delving deeper into what I consider progressive territory - somewhat experimental and slightly disparate riff patterns - but her comfort zone seems to be in laying down crunchy, biting riffs accentuated by swirling leads and sharp solos. She's got chops, no question.

Aside from "The Creeple", the songs that will most appeal to Doom/Gothic fans include the urgently paced "Watching You" and the pseudo-Gothic "Greed". "Tomorrow" possesses some very atmospheric riffs, but is one of Surgeon's more progressively-leaning compositions. There's just enough here for Chemical Reign to be of interest to Doom fans, though I think much more exciting things are yet to come should Surgeon further embrace that aspect of their sound.

Track Listing
1The Creeple6:31
2Watching You4:22
3Deadly Are The Words5:06
5Chemical Reign5:15
7Hamburger Factory4:49
8The Only Constant4:45
Total Runtime55:48

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