Under the innocuous name of Chrome, two San Franciscans — Damon Edge (vocals, synths, etc.) and Helios Creed (vocals, guitar, etc.), with part-time rhythm-section assistance by the Stench brothers of Pearl Harbor’s band — created an often awesome series of pre-industrial LPs that explore a dark state of mind only hinted at by ’60s psychedelia. Taking cues from Suicide, Can, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, the Residents and anyone who ever made home tapes in their bedroom, the pair’s dense, chaotic science-fiction epics are vivid vinyl nightmares — a thick blend of mechanical noises, filtered, twisted voices and fantastic, bizarre lyrics — that flesh out a frightening world both absorbing and repellent. Though conventional song structures are preserved to the point where tracks can be distinguished (indeed, the duo’s early efforts aren’t all that far from semi-normal guitar rock), Chrome’s strength is its ability to create sounds of horrible beauty that transcend discrete musical units. If not as conceptually out there or as ear-splitting as the noisemongers and goth-rockers that followed the duo, Chrome’s sonic intensity is still something to behold.
After the tentativeness of the first two albums, apart from early refinements, Edge and Creed pretty much stuck to the same uniquely nerve-shattering style — metal-drone-punk — throughout their time together. The utterly fearless are recommended to begin with the Chrome Box, a limited-edition set of six albums, including Alien Soundtracks, Half Machine Lip Moves, Blood on the Moon, No Humans Allowed and the previously unreleased two-disc Chronicles.
Following Chrome’s dissolution in 1983, Creed and Edge each launched solo careers. Creed’s first album finds him leading a noisy quartet that drops the science-fiction content but retains Chrome’s sonic density and mild dissonance. Kind of low-rent and faintly cheesy, X-Rated Fairy Tales has to contend with Creed’s ponderous singing and the superficial synthesized chaos; occasionally the LP wins. Superior Catholic Finger is much better, an inspired collage of found sounds, noise, tape manipulation and overdriven punky assault, played by a trio lineup that leans towards guitar, keyboards and drums. (The diminution of vocals is duly noted and appreciated.) Gonzo and gripping.
Produced by Jack Endino, The Last Laugh is a heaping helping of frenzied but terse psychedelia. Creed’s gothic, incantory lyrics ebb and flow much like computer-era Gregorian chants — invoking spirits of Gehenna and sundry other fearsome creatures. While some stretches (like the skulking three-part opener) are heavily processed, selections like “Nirbasion Annasion” and “Road Out of Hell” would be palatable to fans of Voivod. Boxing the Clown adds the machine shop drumming of ex-Scratch Acid pounder Rey Washam which, if anything, clarifies the focus of obsessive tracks like “Hyperventilation” and “Go Blind.” As Reefer Madness warned, one puff of Creed’s powerful stuff will give you the fear!
Disinterring the Chrome moniker for a series of new albums released by Dossier in the second half of the ’80s was not a wise move on Edge’s part; the only possible benefit is that dozens of disaffected cyberpunks might be inspired to learn the phone number of their local Better Business Bureau. In point of fact, the post-Creed Chrome LPs aren’t terrible, they’re simply not Chrome. Returning to the unabashed UFO (not the band)-isms of the pre-Creed Visitation, Edge couches his obsessions in ambient (albeit decibel-heavy) sonic cocoons. Live in Germany is the low point — and somewhat ironic, since the original band dissolved over Edge’s refusal to tour.
Dossier has issued a number of CDs that pair up Chrome albums. Into the Eyes of the Zombie King is joined with Edge’s first solo undertaking, Alliance; Blood on the Moon is on a disc with Eternity; Half Machine Lip Moves goes with Edge’s The Surreal Rock; The Lyon Concert and Another World round off the selection. Meanwhile, back in the States, Touch and Go paired Half Machine with Alien Soundtracks. Edge died in 1995.