My first emotions upon listening to Chrysalis were those of confusion and uncertainty. I was confused about what I was actually hearing and uncertain if I’d even make it through their first song. Luckily I was able to get through the first track on their latest album Focus on the Center and then I repeatedly devoured it. Chrysalis is certainly a unique band and one that is remarkably difficult to describe. Allow me to paint a picture for you by referencing other bands. Take the clean vocals, the guitar riffs, and some of the screamed vocals from Coheed and Cambria, the typical metal-core styled unclean vocals and bass riffs from Chevelle, and combine it with a toned-down electronic version of sections within Enter Shikari. This is what Chrysalis sounds like. They are a band that is truly worthy of the label alternative metal. Mainly because I don’t think there is an actual genre to put them under.
Focus on the Center is one of those albums that has to be listened to a few times. This is for two reasons. One reason is that the album goes straight over your head upon your first listen. The second being that the album just gets better each time you hear it. You pick up on some many subtle things with every listen. For instance, on the song “Saturn Waits” if you pay close attention, you’ll hear extremely faded out screams at the end, which add to the feelings of hurt that the song conveys. Also, the mimicked vocal styles of both Claudio Sanchez (Coheed and Cambria) and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) on the song are backed up by a faint spoken word recording of the very same lyrics.
“Sounds of the Playground” opens with a techno-beat infused metal-core breakdown. Immediately after this breakdown, the sound switches to alternative metal meets post-hardcore. It sounds like a combination of Coheed and Cambria and Chevelle. Lead singer Yessi Burton seems to style his vocals after Claudio Sanchez. The song builds up to the end where it breaks down into techno-beat infused post-hardcore madness, with Burton screaming his lungs out in the background. Despite Chrysalis’s disjointed sound, they produce some excellent lyrics such as the following: “But as the sound of the playground started to fade and all hopes and dreams were washed away, / they left you shocked and stricken and all you know has been replaced. / They left you down and out with nothing left to fill the space.”
“Thoughts Behind” breaks out an intense metal-core styled drum and guitar riff intro coupled with an almost theatrical techno synth line in the background. Once the main verses kick in, the sound meshes post-hardcore styled vocals with metal-core styled instrumentals and unclean vocals that you’d expect to hear from your traditional metal-core bands. This is all under-pinned by a clichéd techno-beat in the background. If you just look at the song from a descriptive point of view, you’d think that the song would never work, but it surprisingly does. In some weird and twisted way, all of these sounds work together to create something massive and unique which gets in under your skin.
“Instant Silence” has an almost comical beginning as it uses this little indie rock guitar riff until it progresses into post-hardcore style instrumentals. This indie rock guitar riff is used on the main verses while the post-hardcore sound is used on the chorus. This results in a very interesting song progression as it switches from being very relaxed to being quite aggressive, and it does so without warning. The song eventually launches into a complete breakdown before closing with the happy go-lucky guitar riff. Once again the lyrical abilities of Chrysalis are shown with verses like: “Keep holding tightly no time for rest. /The instant silence will steal your breath.”
“Ms. Me” launches straight into a guttural unclean section before progressing into Burton’s angst-filled vocals. The track has a much more aggressive edge to it than other songs due to the frequent use of unclean vocals and the razor-sharp post-hardcore styled guitars that dig deep beneath your skin. The song seem to reflect a sense of betrayal and hurt with lyrics like: “You’re f*cking ridiculous, cleverly inconspicuous/ I became a fool because ignorance is bliss / and I do not want to wake up from this dream.”
“My Forsaken” brutally ends the album with aggressive hardcore unclean vocals coupled with thundering guitar riffs. It is an in-your-face song that seems to be more focused on sounding angry and pissed off than attempting to mash together multiple genres. It sees the band toeing the line between hardcore and post-hardcore. Burton spews lyrics like “Calm down, calm down my forsaken/ control yourself I’m not listening anymore” and “Hold that thought because I cannot hear you through the glass / I cannot read, your lips are moving too fast / the sorrow, the speeches, spare me the noose / Tie me a rope and just spare me the noose.”
Focus on the Center is an aural journey from start to beginning. Chrysalis manages to cram as many genres as possible into one album and then inject a hearty dose of emotion into the record. After the album finishes, you actually need to take a break and just go listen to some quiet music in order to recover from the aural assault of sound and emotions. They build soaring skyscrapers of sound and then rip them down with a simple breakdown. For a band that has not released anything in seven years, they’re storming back into the music scene with guns blazing.