Solo projects and one-person bands often have a reputation for creating music that are crude and raw, both in the best and worst senses. The opposite is true for Chimera by ISA though; the solo project of Dan Curhan has been a long time coming (six years, to be exact), and judging by the end results, it sounds as if not a day has gone by during that time when Dan wasn’t working on these songs. This is psychedelic, progressive death metal of the most intricate kind, with a huge range of dynamics, moods, and atmospheres. It’s a challenging listen; but one that’s very rewarding, and as far removed from what you’d expect from a one-person release to be like as is possible.
A concept album, based upon a journey through a dream, Chimera opens up gently enough, but soon descends into more nightmarish realms. The album is characterised by layered guitars weaving complex lines and riffs; punchy bass that helps to emphasise the melodies and adds extra weight; and complex drum patterns that are far from what you’d expect from a solo project. It’s clear that a lot of time has gone in to these songs, with the end result being an album that has a huge amount going on at any one point – which works to both the advantage and disadvantage of Chimera.
The most obvious plus points of such songs are that they are incredibly impressive to behold, with so many different elements competing for attention at any one time. This makes them incredibly exciting, full of energy and movement. The album feels like a real headfuck, where though it is hard to latch on to any one element for any length of time, it’s also hard not to enjoy the experience of being thrown around so recklessly within this whirlpool of relentless death metal.
This is also the downside of Chimera. With so much going on at any one point, it can be hard on initial listens to discern the actual structure of the songs, with it taking multiple listens for their constituent parts to come together in the intended manner. When they do come together they are impressive in their construction and effect, and the melody that is present in each song helps to tie the album together as a whole; but there’s no denying that Chimera requires time and patience to get the most out of.
Still, Chimera is an album that does deserve such effort – it is a hugely impressive work, and Dan has created something quite special here. That it takes some time to really appreciate just how good Chimera is is no real slight on the album; and, to some extent, it helps give it lasting appeal. There is plenty to be found and explored within this album, and it will be exciting to see what ISA come up with next.
Chimera can be downloaded via Bandcamp.