Chain of Flowers' Much Awaited Debut Delivers
At long last! Chain of Flowers debut LP of the same name, released 16th October via Alter, is the stuff of dreams – or, rather, a paranoid nightmare of kinds.
The six-piece Cardiff based band have, for the past three years, amassed a number of shows with the likes of The Fall, Eagulls, Iceage, Nothing and, most recently, Ceremony; having garnered quite a following themselves, the release of their record feels like quite a big deal.
‘Chain of Flowers’ is big in other senses of the word too. Though there are only 8 tracks, albeit the majority of these being well over 4 minutes long, it is an album laden in big sound. All-encompassing and claustrophobic at that.
The first moments of opener ‘Nail Me To Your Cross’ elicit a sense of limbo – the song could go one of two ways, but opts for an unforgiving force of noise. Layers negotiate a balance between intensity and harmony before plunging whole heartedly into an impenetrable fog of noise.
A seamless transition into ‘Crisis’ leaves no room to breathe if only for a second. The pressured atmosphere is somewhat and somehow enrapturing. Though, in a mixing pot of juxtapositions, the guitar riff which is, at first, a beacon of hope and light, morphs into something more menacing. It taps away until even this riff, this optimism amongst the darkness, evokes a sense of paranoia.
‘Death’s Got A Hold Of Me’ lunges further into the depths of an inextricable dark haze, yet Smiths’ lyricism works as a buoy, desperately and convincingly smoothing the surface out. However, ‘Glimmers Of Joy’ is all in the name. Chain of Flowers occupy a cleaner territory; a clearer cut space in amongst the caverns of doom. ‘Bury My Love (Beyond The Sun)’ blurs the lines that ‘Glimmers of Joy’ demarcates, yet there are very much distinguished elements of sheer optimism and melody at play.
There’s an element of bliss to ‘Colour/Blind’, which is all at once overwhelming and far away. It achieves a sense of sustained control, though drenched in fuzz. For just under a minute, the opening of ‘Follow’ repeats itself, latching onto a false sense of security. It can’t be sustained, and there must be something more to it, for all its agitated urgency. Of course, it’s building up to something that’s lurking in the shadows and when that crescendo happens, it comes as an unexpected torrent of sheer sound. Perhaps the most chaotic moment of the record, there remains an element of uneasy control over the situation. That minute of anticipation of the unknown is longed for as the song concludes, just to be thrown into its treacherous whirlwind once more.
All things most come to an end, as the stripped back feel of ‘Drained’ acknowledges. That said, it’s a song that’s nine minutes long. Chain of Flowers put the brakes on, but it’s still as intoxicatingly claustrophobic as ever.
There isn’t a break through into the open light that shimmers through at various intervals in the record. Rather, the eerie echoing of Smiths’ vocals, before a final swoop into pure ambience for the final minute is utterly haunting. The fog has lifted to some degree, but the vast and endless space it reveals is no more welcoming.
Ending as it does, Chain of Flowers comes across, on reflection, as a seamless odyssey, working its way through harsh atmospheres and shimmering ambiance. It’s hopeful and devastating all at once. It’s a beautiful album, thoroughly well-crafted and well worth the wait entirely.