On its new EP, Another Life, Chaos Frame wastes no time celebrating mediocrity. From the generic and repetitive timbres and riffs to the histrionic vocals, the group proudly declares how, in the realm of Progressive Metal, they are simply another run-of-the-mill act. Like so many of their underdog contemporaries, Chaos Frame pulls off the techniques without finding their own identity.
The quartet hails from St. Paul, MN, and they love to "bring the riffs, change keys a lot, change time signatures a lot, add blast beats to things, have epic parts, [and] experiment a bit..." This description pinpoints perfectly why Chaos Frame fails; they approach their music with a checklist of genre essentials, yet they fail to include the most important parts—originality and heart. While music is certainly mathematical in theory and construction, great artists add their own concentrated and perfected traits, like unique songwriting and innovative ideas. To blindly concoct a musical compound out of these apparently necessary prog metal elements is to miss the entire point of making your own art. Chaos Frame have borrowed a lot and brought little of their own to the table.
Since 95% of Another Life sounds the same (as well as similar to countless other artists), discussing the opener, "The Distance," should be sufficient. After a minute of blistering beats and thunderous riffs, vocalist Dave Brown sings a completely forgettable melody while alternating between emotive singing and growling. If you combined Vanden Plas, Queensryche, and Opeth and removed everything that makes (or made) them special, you'd have this track (and thus, this album). Sure, there are some occasionally interesting sounds and pleasant arpeggios, but they barely even register amidst the completely bland majority. Again, these guys can play well, but that's not all it takes to be successful.
Another similarity Chaos Frame shares with many of its contemporaries is that it ignore what is arguably the most crucial aspect of enjoyable music: dynamics. Every song, save for the token ballad, is frantic, relentless, and as a result, boring. Look at how Dream Theater's Images and Words contains both "Pull Me Under" and "Wait for Sleep." Examine how King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part One" constantly shifts from a majestic quiet to extremely dissonant madness. Chaos Frame has definitely learned how to be heavy and fast, but they also need to learn when to calm down and let subdued atmosphere do the talking.
Another Life is just another average prog metal release, plain and simple. The band can play, the singer can sing, and the complexity is spot on. However, the songwriting is utterly forgettable, the timbres (instruments and vocals) are way too familiar, and it all sounds the same. I've said it about many other albums and I'll say it again here—there is no reason for this album to exist, and you certainly don't need to hear it.
1. The Distance
3. No Answer
4. The Good Fight
5. Sunken Boat Equilibrium
7. Becoming the Past
8. Another Life