Despite notions to the contrary, there's never been a shortage of great bands operating within the heavier factions of underground music on the Memphis scene. Reserving Dirtnaps, Gringos, Evil Army, Strengths, Klaxxon, and Dawn Patrol provide an incomplete list that suggests circa-right-now to be particularly fertile when it comes to punk's, hardcore's, and metal's three-decade habit of jumping into the sack together.
The hard-working Chaos Order — vocalist/lyricist Neal Bledsoe, bassist/co-songwriter Jared Filsinger, guitarist Austin Russell, and drummer Samuel Davidson — is a quartet more than deserving of a position in that front line, incorporating a variety of influences including, but not limited to, the heavy D-beat rush of Disfear, the crust-core of early Neurosis, earlier somewhat straightforward (think pre-prog rock) Mastodon, along with some thematic similarities to the left-hand-path aesthetics of Integrity. The band's impressive work ethic and momentum have created a productive 2015/2016.
In February, Beserker Records re-released the six-song Regulus EP on cassette. In April, two previously unused/unheard songs from the Vultures sessions were put together as Evacuating Earth, a digital and cassette release on local label Fly the Light Records. Throughout the winter Chaos Order was also focused on recording new material (at Ardent and Secret Team Headquarters with Alan Burcham) that would eventually yield the four songs that comprise the band's newest EP, Distant Chords of Disharmony. Blasphemour Records, the California label that released the Chaos Order/Werewolf Congress split 7" in May 2014, will release the EP digitally and on cassette in August. Two of the four EP tracks were released on Chaos Order's Bandcamp page last month: The blazing "Yourself and All Together" and the expansive "Eternal Recurrence" are unlike anything in the quartet's body of work.
"There wasn't any forethought or apprehension regarding the elements that ended up making the song different, meaning the slower parts, the piano and Neal's clean chorus and backing vocals," Filsinger says. "In fact, all of the music was done on 'Eternal,' and Neal went in afterwards one night and did all of the vocal tracks by himself."
The song kicks off with a characteristically propulsive and intense riff-driven attack but soon shifts into something that recalls the more spacious and darkly melancholic tendencies of Neurosis. Bledsoe's vocal performance combines with the forward-thinking instrumental nature of the song to make the entire presentation a positive game-changer for the band. Far removed from the done-to-death heavy music trope of good-cop/bad-cop vocal dynamics, the singing on "Eternal Recurrence" showcases Bledsoe's noteworthy range, from an emotive scream to a couple of melodic approaches that do the heavy lifting when it comes to setting the mood and carrying the song's massive hook. The uninformed would be forgiven for assuming all of it might be bolstered by guest vocals, like the shorter and thrashier "Yourself and All Together," to which Pezz's Ceylon Mooney contributed a clean and catchy backing chorus to similar but simpler effect.
"We love all types of music and this was just a natural progression of going where the songwriting took us. I feel like it ended up sounding like what it was: completely organic," Bledsoe says.
Though not unidentifiable as Chaos Order compositions, this inspired move forward in songwriting and other sonic attributes nonetheless speaks to the potential of the three days the band has booked in October at Electrical Audio studios in Chicago, where they will record two songs with the studio's legendary founder/owner/operator, Steve Albini. The songs are already written and slated for a split 7" EP with St. Louis' Better Days. That EP will be released in early 2016 by Fly the Light and Encapsulated Records.
"It was a choice between [working with] Albini and Bill Stevenson. After writing both songs and working out logistics, the more favorable response came from Albini," Bledsoe says. "We're huge fans of his work with Neurosis, the Jesus Lizard, and the Pixies and of his technique in general. I could listen to 300 albums and pick out which ones he engineered."