Whenever I hear metal that is fast, loud, angry, and the sounds just plain mean, I have a knee-jerk reaction to compare it to Pantera. Between Cowboys From Hell and Vulgar Display of Power, Pantera convinced me that, unlike so many of the guitar-thrashing hardcore bands out there, they were the real deal. A full assault combination of fury, screaming vocals, excellent guitar work, and the white noise of rage, Pantera was truly metal. As a result, it’s difficult for me to listen to like-sounding bands without using Pantera as a yardstick
Chaos Theory is a band that certainly draws the comparison. Fast, loud, and angry, and more than a little mean, Chaos Theory is a full-on metal band from the New Jersey area. They play hard, pounding songs, scream painful, dark lyrics, and would probably frighten your grandparents into an early grave through intimidation alone. The parental advisory label on their latest CD reads, “Parental Advisory: Explicit Fuckin’ Content”. They include a “Fuck You List” in their liner notes dedicated to all the people who’ve pissed them off. And at a mere 30 minutes of music and six songs, their CD remains a dense, weighty thing that is almost too difficult to sit through in one sitting. It’s headphone music for a really bad day, or stereo music for a really tough party.
But is it Pantera? Well, the similarities are there, but Chaos Theory is definitely more in tune with the current moment in metal than they are with what was biting and fresh a decade ago. While guitar speed plays a role in their music, Chaos Theory seems to concentrate more on the soupy, thick bass and distortion sound of more contemporary metal bands, which has earned them comparisons to Static-X and Powerman 5000. I think these comparisons are a little off-the-mark, however, as Chaos Theory doesn’t rely on the incorporation of studio trickery and electronic effects to augment their power chords. Instead it’s just the chhurning sounds of guitars and rapid-fire drumming with the occasional drum machine added to give the tempo just that little extra kick. Think more along the lines of bands like Testament or Nevermore, both bands Chaos Theory has opened for, or SOD and Hatebreed, bands that the engineer on Chaos Theory, Tim Gilles, has worked with in the past.
But then in crucial ways, Chaos Theory could stand to learn a bit more from the bands of metal’s past and present. Although Dan Altobelli’s screamed vocals will have you reaching for the Chloraseptic spray before the end of the second track, the delivery is fairly uniform compared to, well, a Phil Anselmo, and Altobelli could really stand to expand his range. Similarly, the music on this disc is less inventive than even some of the rudimentary acts of today’s metal scene. Although the tempos shift well, each song seems to bleed into the next in terms of sound and texture. However, these are all things that can be attributed to the fact that Chaos Theory is self-produced. Even with Gilles’ help at the mixing board, the band has locked themselves into one stance, and it’s actually pretty tiring to sit through one long, angry pose.
However, this is only Chaos Theory’s third disc and as a small, independent band, they don’t get the big bucks and studio time that a lot of major label metal acts manage to pull down. For four guys from New Jersey who love their music and are pretty pissed off at the world, they do a lot right. Scarred for Life, the band’s debut disc, helped to propel them into the metal press’s spotlight, and their follow-up, Unholy Trinity, only helped to seal their fame and add members to their steadily growing fanbase. With the recent addition of Craig Miller as a second guitarist, Chaos Theory has begun to focus on creating a thick, densely layered sound that packs a more powerful punch. They’ve got the thick part down pat, now they just need to spend some energy working on making their music more fluid.
For existing fans of Chaos Theory, the new album will be exciting for its increased complexity and depth of mood and tone. This disc will also almost certainly help earn the respect of new fans as well. And while, to my mind at least, they’re still no Pantera, Chaos Theory holds some promise that they just might be in time.