A cover can really draw my attention to an album; I think everyone feels that way. Deep down, we want an amazing album with the artwork to match. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with Epoch of Chirality’s new album, Nucleosynthesis, but it turns out that the music does indeed match the fantastic art work. The album released on July 23rd.
I’ve seen quite a bit written about this album thus far, some good and some bad. Epoch of Chirality is a one-man project, that man being Richard How of the UK. What I’ve read, though, often seems to miss the point of the sound and aesthetics of this record, and I feel like I’ve been able to get on Richard’s wavelength.
EOC offers sci-fi metal, but the reality is much more complicated. I hear plenty of influence from both film and video game scores, and while you might expect the album to lean heavily upon guitars, the guitar work is mostly chugging, riffy goodness that makes the album feel meaty and bulky. While there are plenty of moments of spry fingerwork in the guitars department, much of the album is led by gorgeous synth and keyboard melodies, many of them feeling directly out of the 80s and 90s. I was honestly quite surprised by this.
I have to admit that much of my enjoyment of this record is due to nostalgia. There are portions that remind me of everything from The Princess Bride score (or even just 80s fantasy movies in general) to “Earth City” from Martin O’Donnell’s Halo soundtrack to cyberpunk accents from Perfect Dark or Blade Runner. I’m sure that there are many more that will come to the surface as I keep listening, too.
I think that, upon listening to this album several times, Richard really knows how to achieve melodies and textures that “feel” like something familiar or someplace specific. For science fiction fans, I think you will visualize all sorts of amazing places that you know well, and maybe some that you don’t. It can be subtle at times, and those listeners more in tune with metal than with sci-fi will miss it. As any sci-fi fan knows, one of the hallmarks of the genre is calling back to what has come before, not in the way of plagiarism, but in the way of tribute and acknowledgement. I think Richard balances this well.
I would point out, though, that Richard serves up a grand dish of his own ideas, too. I am impressed time and again with the creativity on display, from moments that lean into the metal sound substantially to moments of quirk, otherworldliness, and even bizarrity. I think the second half of the album specifically offers those latter segments.
The first half of the album is quite good. “Dawn of Chirality” is a great opener, even if it is a bit of a slowburn. “Undercity Rising” is amazing with its electronic vibe and heavy guitars. “Caravan to the Midnight Mountain” even throws in some Middle Eastern vibes to create a truly Dune-like track that is honestly pretty addictive. “Boreal” is a heavier track that focuses on drive more than anything, and it’s fun to hear.
At track five, though, I think Richard’s true genius starts to show. “Pyramid Cybergod” will certainly be one of my favorite songs this year. This track has so much going on, from mysterious keyboard melodies to burning auras to ancient echoes. The central melody that eventually emerges feels very 90s sci-fi to me, and I love it. “Maiden Voyage” is another track with greater aspirations. This song is about as peculiar and unconventional a metal song as you will ever hear. It centers itself on the “voyage” feeling, for sure, and keyboards are front and center through every quirky little hook, serene vista, and burgeoning oddity.
The last three tracks are great, too. “The Abyssal Fleet” really feels 80s-90s video game music to me, and so I dig it. “Labyrinth” feeds off that vibe; it seems, but also the “Maiden Voyage” quirk. It ends up feeling like a journey into nostalgia and ethereal spaces. The album ends with “Paradox”, a song heavy on electronic beats and climactic song structure. I think this song sums up the album and ends it well.
It might be difficult for listeners outside science fiction and gamer circles to appreciate this Epoch of Chirality debut fully. For me, it feels like home to some extent, with sounds and ideas that I recognize: things close to my heart, even. Nucleosynthesis is like a realm of wistfulness and wonder, reminiscence and reverie, flashbacks and fantasy. It feels utterly familiar, but also like something alien and new. I find myself listening to it quite often.
Find Epoch of Chirality online: