Focus on the Center is one of those experiences which have you juggling thoughts throughout a highly adventurous proposition; triumphs and uncertainties playing with thoughts within, in the case of this release, what ultimately is nothing less than a rigorously captivating enticement. The magnetic album is the first release from Southern California metallers Chrysalis for seven years and an encounter which stares defiantly eye to eye with any attempts to label it. Fusing a flurry of flavours, within which styles like post hardcore and progressive rock lie potently alongside alternative and post metal, sound and album is a tantalising mix never leaving a minute alone from invention and virulent expression. The best way to describe the album is Faith No More and Incubus meets Mind Museum and TesseracT with thick additional spices of My Chemical Romances and Meshuggah; only that still gives no more than a hint. Focus on the Center is a release which pleasingly overwhelms senses and thoughts at first, moving through an underwhelming middle, before leaving on a serious blaze and though it leaves a few questions with many more answers, album and band are richly compelling from start to finish.
Chrysalis began in 2003 and took little time in waking up strong attention and greedy appetites for themselves. The Barstow quintet over the years has added playing the Vans Warped Tour and opening for A Day to Remember as well as sharing stages with the likes of Agent Orange and True Sounds of Liberty to their increasingly impressive resume. It is very easy to feel and assume that Focus on the Center will be the breakthrough moment for Chrysalis, even with its changeable success within a gripping narrative of ideation and sound. It is an experiment in progress in many ways; one where you can easily imagine the long term results having the potential to cast new templates for metal invention.
The release opens with Sounds of the Playground, a tempting bred from electronic kissed seeds which swiftly evolves into a robust and fiery caress of sonic persuasion. Rapidly into an immediately appealing feisty brew of guitar and disjointed rhythms which blend with a restrained but exciting cacophony to their merger, the song continues to increase the bait as the fine clean vocals of Yessi Burton thrust thirstier expression into the imagination. Though at this moment the track is not crafting anything startlingly inventive, little things like the darkly toned bass sound from Jared Sturgis and the busy wash to the alignment of guitar endeavour from Gabe Gallego and Chris Norris absorb ears and thoughts. The rhythmic tempting of Billy Norris and rougher vocal squalls add intimidation to the appealing offering but it is when the Burton crafted keys begin to stretch their arms that the song takes on a new scintillating persona. Entwining raw aggression and warm seduction, the song searches a new innocent canvas, one with a carnival grin and MCR drama before exploding into a ferocious and riveting finale, simply an aural play and quite thrilling.
The following Thoughts Behind is equally intensive and gripping in its design, its opening antagonism of fiercely jagged riffs alongside a rapacious bass stalking outstanding. Once established, keys wrap their celestial teasing around the senses whilst the vocals exude charm and temptation within the still seriously brewed predatory intent of the track. The song ebbs and flows between the almost spatial and primal enterprise, providing a constant lure which has imagination and passions as hungry as ears. As its predecessor the track continues to twist and turn within its mouthwatering and demanding ingenuity, leaving assumptions and expectations well adrift of the reality of the riveting tempest.
The album is off to a staggering start but it is with Instant Silence that some of the impetus is lost though to be fair the third song on Focus on the Center is a more than appetising encounter. Through its bold imagination and crisp beats around the new expected impressive vocals, the song flows with skill and fluid enterprise but the spark which stole and enslaved thoughts and emotions on the first two songs is a simmering fuse here. There is little to dismiss the track for and its contagious exploits make for a lingering enjoyment but whereas experimentation ran the heart of songs on the first pair of tracks, expectations are more keenly fed by this time around.
Ms. Me is similar in effect too if not in sound. A great unruly mix of clean and gruff vocals place their hands on the ears notably at first whilst keys sooth and swarm with emotive depths making their impression in a heavily crowded air, especially around the Hitchcock bred vocal samples. The track is an impressively provocative and enthralling capture of ears and thoughts but again that something which ignited the first songs is if not absent noticeably quiet. All the same track and band keep attention firmly in their grasp as the intrusively evocative instrumental Tumbula steps up next to make for a more than decent inspiration for the imagination to play with.
As mentioned at the start, Chrysalis find their magic inventive touch for the close of the album, both Saturn Waits and My Forsaken incendiary treats for ears and feelings. The first of the two encloses the senses in a wiry cage of riffs and thumping rhythms from its first second as a similarly steely groove adds its irresistible toxin to the trap. It is a mighty lure which once the throaty bass sound conjured by Sturgis has its say escalates into another bewitching creative alchemy, vocals and melodic toxicity putting fuel to the emerging fire of imagination and skill. The song flirts with and prowls over the senses alternately and continuously, occasionally merging and always lighting a revitalised appetite and greed for the album. Its triumph is emulated by its successor, the rawest aggressive storm on the album. Snarling and raging from the first breath, the song lurches and barges across its muscular protestation whilst veining its intimidation with those great clean vocals, acidic taunting, and emotive grace. It is a glorious end to what is undeniably a tremendous return from Chrysalis, even with the satisfying but open dip in the middle.
In many ways Focus on the Center feels like the prologue to something bigger and better, a voraciously appealing and exciting thought taking the new release as a starting point. Wrapped in artwork designed and produced by Burton in honour and recognition of the band’s close friend Jeff Davis, the vocalist of Lindbergh Skies who passed away not so long ago, Focus on the Center is a sizeable encounter which should be swiftly checked out.
The self-released Focus on the Center is available now!
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