I have always seen the name Chrome alongside other Industrial luminaries like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. I was very curious to hear them, and the CD version of the legendary Chrome Box (which collected all of the band’s early material) was in my Amazon wish list for almost two years. It was just never in stock, nor was anything else that fans recommended. I figured one of these days I would eventually hear them and finally, Cleopatra had enough foresight to release a more concise collection of the band’s material this past April. I immediately purchased it and the wait was well worth it. With a total of eighteen tracks, this anthology collects the very best material from the band’s formative and most explosive, impactful years. As clichéd and as predictable as it will sound, Chrome (the classic line-up consisting of founder Damon Edge and Helios Creed developed in late 1976 San Francisco) was extremely ahead of their time. When the first few chaotic tracks ripped through my speakers, I could not believe how powerful and relevant it all sounded.
While much of the material does sound like it was produced in the late seventies and early 1980s, the ideas themselves and the way in which they are executed were completely innovative. The music is a brilliant integration of bizarre experimental cut ups, white noise assaults, and crunchy psychedelic punk rock, produced with shrill screaming high-end guitar noise, funky percussive bass, and in your face drumming. The drums were especially what sold me on Chrome, for you can hear how the patterns of the rhythms were the very blueprints of modern day breakbeat and trance techno. The only difference is they are played by a human being (save for a few of the early 80s tracks that do in fact use a drum machine) and are therefore instantaneously better! That does indeed make all the difference.
To me, the music of Chrome sounds like more exciting, focused and frantic cyber punk, but to this day I doubt that anything could even touch the organic intensity presented here. Whatever the case, the extremely tight and addictive rhythms crash and bash at the core of this material. The vocals are all over the place, sometimes distinctive chanted punk rock howls, agitated screams, Stooge like snarls, or more commonly, aggravated processed or garbled vocals.
Above all Chrome was frantic and uncompromisingly noisy, their atmospheres encompassing, extremely diverse but the varying moods always explored a new dimension of the strange and unusual. The way the songs unfold are very unpredictable, often stopping or changing into something altogether different, but usually a notch or two more intense than the previous explorations. While always edgy and chaotic, the latter half of the disc reveals a band more conscious of song structure, with slower, slinky and sleazy type songs that definitely have an early Goth Rock appeal. You can detect Chrome’s influence in the decayed visions of the future that characterized Cabaret Voltaire’s “Mix Up” and “Red Mecca” releases, the angular art punk of Wire and Gang Of Four, and certainly in the latter formative Industrial of SPK and eventually, Big Black and Ministry (especially Al’s vocal approach). Along with Suicide, Chrome tracks like “Firebomb” with its palpitating metallic bass and the dizzying gloom of “In A Dream” probably had a huge impact on early Sisters Of Mercy, Specimen, Lorries, and March Violets singles. Hell, after hearing “Zombie Warfare,” I wonder if even Judas Priest lifted the riff of their classic “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” from these guys!
So in short, Chrome was an extremely important influence on underground music as you and I know it and this is without question the most valuable release from Cleopatra records in several years. As the little blurb on the back of the CD case attests, this is indeed “a must have addition to the collection of any self-respecting punk or rivethead worth their salt.” Unquestionably essential!
Chrome – Official Website: