Chiaroscuro - Brilliant Pools Of Darkness

Year of Release: 1999
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: CBPD 004
Format: CD
Total Time: 61:08:00

This album unexpectedly showed up in my mail last week, and I'm rather glad it did. There have been requests lately on the Perpetual Motion board for MP3s of this band, and the members themselves post occasionally. While there are no MP3s, here are my thoughts:

Actually, their name says it all - Chiaroscuro (pronounced "kyah roh Skyoor oh"), which, according to the sleeve means: "the cause and effect of gradations of light and shadow, especially when there is strong contrast between the two" (Well, their name and the title of this disc - Brilliant Pools Of Darkness). This is progressive metal in a Dream Theater mode - vocalist Ian Dorsch uses LaBrie like dynamics. This isn't a bad thing, but will give you a general sense of their direction. But, I hear more than just a bit of thrash in their sound, too.

Which means, there is a harder edge to their sound than I've heard in DT (and similiar). It gives the disk a rawer sound, less of the tight precision expected from this style of metal, and I think a more real sound.

By that I mean, here are musicians going for the sound, the impact, rather than the precision - a serrated-edge knife versus a smooth steel sword. And yet, contrasted to that are Dorsch's high range vocals, mostly very smooth - a bit off key, but not to the degree it takes anything away.

But then again, there's "Crucifixion" ... he sounds better on this track during the chorus - a very raw, deeper, thrashy kinda voice. Not as growly as death, and not as raw as James Hetfield, but more appealing to me than the smoother vocals. Go figure.

All through this album, what kept going through my mind, between tracks, was DT's own "Lie" - there's nothing here that sounds particularly like it, but, then again ...

Brothers Richard and Clif Chambliss are quite impressive on their respective guitar attacks - one electric guitar, the other bass. Drummer Aaron Ellsworth uses a combination of acoustic and electronic drums (acoustics are much preferable in tone and colour). Dorsch also handles keyboard duties.

There are hints at faith or loss of faith here in the lyrics - not necessarily religious faith, but hovering at the fringes at times. But, also you could say faith in others, in self, wherever.

"Winter Girls" has to be the most depressing track here lyrically. It references the Twain classic Huckleberry Finn, but I couldn't help but think of Kate Chopin's The Awakening as well.* The imagery here is setting off to sea - on the one hand, the ultimate image of total escape, not only in literary terms but also in other music (Little River Band's "Cool Change" is but one very non-metal example). On the other, a metaphor for suicide. This track by Chiaroscuro could be taken both ways.

In fact, suicide appears as imagery here more than once - it appears in "Crucifixion" as well.

All that I've said is true, except for one track: the decidedly unmetal "Divinity" - keyboard washes and gentle percussion slowly builds in tempo for the chorus. Modern Tangerine Dream with vocals is what I thought of. Clannad or Capercaille with male vocals. I like it.

And you'd think "Children's Crusade," the closer would be more the same, given its keyboard intro. But, Richard Chambliss' fuzzy, distorted guitar comes in, and while he isn't shredding, there's a raw feel to it. This seques to a slow chuggggga chugggga by the guitars and bass ...menace in slow motion. The drums are up front on this one - guitar and drums ... and the drums needed to be a bit back in the mix.

A good debut, some great potential here. Recommended.

[*Unless you have spent any time in a Women's Literature class - and I'm guessing most you haven't, being guys - you probably won't make the association with Kate Chopin. And I'm certain that Kate would never have thought she'd get a namecheck in a prog metal review. :o)

Broken Everything (5:26) / Crucifixion (7:12) / No Need (5:08) / Bloody Hell (5:08) / Caliban's Dance (5:18) / Waiting (6:40) / Winter Girls (4:53) / Luminescence (4:27) / Divinity (7:21) / Children's Crusade (9:35)

Ian Dorsch - vocals, keyboards, and programming
Richard Chambliss - guitars
Clif Chambliss - bass
Aaron Ellsworth - acoustic and electronic drums

Brilliant Pools Of Darkness (1999)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: October 4th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1563
Language: english


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