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Music / Chrome (Band)
aka: Chrome

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Damon Edge and Helios Creed

"I don't know why I should wait, I don't know why
I've got to find a way, I don't know why
Something you feel inside, I don't know why
Something I feel inside, I don't know why
Waiting at the back door of my mind"
— "TV As Eyes"

Chrome are an influential Industrial Post-Punk/Avant-garde band from San Francisco. The band, founded in 1975 by the late mastermind Damon Edge (born Thomas Wisse) and recurring bassist Gary Spain, initially played Psychedelic, experimental rock music described by some as "Brian Eno meets Santana". However in 1976, following the addition of effects-overloaded guitar-god Helios Creed (born Barry Johnson), the band began taking in Punk influences and developed into the Industrial Acid Punk for which they are known. Their 1979 album, Half Machine Lip Moves, is widely considered their defining statement.

The band split following the 3rd From the Sun and Raining Milk albums, after which Edge would continue to use the band name and release more synth-based (and heavily derided) works until his death in 1995. Then in 1997 Helios Creed, who had been experiencing a prolific solo career since 1985, took the Chrome name back and returned it to its noisy Rock roots. The Helios-fronted band has sporadically recorded and performed ever since.

The band's recordings through 1982's 3rd From the Sun were instrumental to the development of Industrial Rock, and the band were directly influential to the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, Butthole Surfers, The Jesus Lizard, My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, Prong, and Psychic TV.

The band's latest album, Techromancy, was released in 2017. Previously Helios led a successful campaign to buy back unreleased '79-'80 material and put it onto disc. The band's current lineup is Helios, Monet Clarke, Tommy Cyborg, Lou Minotti, Aleph Omega, and Steve Fishman.

Key Discography

Edge/Creed era

  • Alien Soundtracks (1978)
  • Read Only Memory EP (1979)
  • Half Machine Lip Moves (1979)
  • Red Exposure (1980)
  • Blood on the Moon (1981)
  • 3rd From the Sun (1982)
  • No Humans Allowed (1982) - Compilation of the "Inworlds" single, two B-sides, and the Read Only Memory EP.
  • Raining Milk (1983) - Tracks would later be expanded and released as Chronicles volumes 1 and 2.

Edge era

  • Into the Eyes of the Zombie King (1984)
  • Another World (1986)
  • Eternity (1986)
  • Dreaming in Sequence (1987)
  • Alien Soundtracks II (1988)
  • Mission of the Entranced (1990)
  • Liquid Forest (1990)
  • One Million Eyes (1991)
  • The Clairaudient Syndrome (1994)

Helios era

  • Retro Transmission (1997)
  • Tidal Forces: No Humans Allowed II (1998)
  • Angel of the Clouds (2002) - Includes incomplete recordings from Damon made complete by Helios
  • Ghost Machine (2002)
  • Half Machine from the Sun, The Lost Chrome Tracks from '79-'80 (2013) - Unreleased Edge/Creed-era recordings, bought back from the record company with the help of the fans.
  • Feel it Like a Scientist (2014)
  • Techromancy (2017)
  • Scaropy (2021)

This band provides examples of:

  • Artistic Stimulation: Damon and Helios were heavy drug users, and that comes through in the music. Apparently Helios' signature guitar sound came about from seeing a Black Sabbath show while on Orange Sunshine and Mescaline.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Twice: first when Helios left and Damon took full control, and second when Damon died and Helios took the name back.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Damon and Helios, drug users and futurists. Helios is also an active conspiracy theorist, particularly with UFOs and space debris.
  • Cover Version: While the band never did covers, Prong did a live cover of "Armageddon", and The Jesus Lizard did a cover medley of "TV as Eyes" and "Abstract Nympho", which they released as the "Chrome" single.
  • Darker and Edgier: Each album was progressively heavier and more nightmarish than the last during the band's initial run. Third from the Sun is the culmination, bordering on Doom Metal.
  • Dastardly Dapper Derby: The band in 80's promotional photographs, and in the "New Age" and "Meet You in the Subway" videos, as Shout Outs to A Clockwork Orange.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: If the album art isn't just a picture of the band, it's this. Damon Edge and Monet Clarke take collage art into insane and incomprehensible territory.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Zig-zagged with their first album, The Visitation. It featured singer Mike Low, who sometimes slipped into a falsetto, and guitarist John Lambdin, who took every chance to make a string-bending Santana-esque guitar solo. However it's also probably their most normal album, featuring no cutting-and-pasting, no heavy guitar processing, and no samples.
  • Epic Rocking:
    • The Read Only Memory EP is 21 minutes long, and though there are individual tracks, the whole thing runs uninterrupted. The re-release on the No Humans Allowed compilation takes it up to eleven, having the entire EP on one track and having it run twice: once normally and then in reverse.
    • The individual tracks of the Chronicles series range from 5 to 17 minutes.
    • "Armageddon" from 3rd from the Sun is nearly 9 minutes, and "Mithras" and the title track from Retro Transmission are 8 and 10 minutes respectively.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Alien Soundtracks was developed from a set called Ultra Soundtracks, which was recorded for a radical San Francisco strip show. The show rejected it for being too radical.
  • Face on the Cover: The Inworlds single features a mostly-untouched photo of Damon and Helios, unlike every other one of their covers, while Red Exposure includes their faces in a more suitably artistic style.
  • Garage Band: The early years. Half Machine Lip Moves was recorded in Damon's living room.
  • Genre-Busting: One of the reasons the band never broke out from the underground was that nobody knew how to market them: they didn't fit into anything.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Chrome Box, Having a Wonderful Time with the Tripods/At Juice Drome
  • Harsh Vocals: By virtue of heavy processing and lo-fi equipment, and Damon and Helios just generally being unhinged.
  • I Am the Band: Depending on the era, Damon and/or Helios are the primary creative force of the band.
  • I Call Her "Vera": John L. Cyborg, supposedly the band's engineer and third member during the Red Exposure era, was actually a drum machine.
  • Iconic Item: The derby hats. Helios switches from solo-Helios Creed to Chrome when playing live just by having his band put on derbies.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Heavy effects processing on their voices, sometimes into Harsh Vocals territory, makes it very hard to make out the lyrics.
  • Industrial: One of the lesser known founders of the genre, and their music was highly influential in the development of Industrial Rock and Industrial Metal. Helios also claims that they directly influenced Industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. They were also accidental Trope Namers in the United States:
    Helios: "We were also joking around one day and decided our music was ‘Industrial Strength Toilet Bowl Cleaner Music’ heavy it cleaned the toilet. We told our joke to a radio DJ in an interview and then we also shortened it to Industrial Strength Music. When the DJ signed off he said...'Well there you have it folks, Industrial Music from the band Chrome!'"
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: "Abstract Nympho", "Anorexic Sacrifice".
  • Intercourse with You: "Something Rhythmic (I Can't Wait)":
    "I cannot put it off 'til later
    I need it now
    I need you tied to my bedpost
    I can't wait"
  • Last Note Nightmare: "TV As Eyes" closes a high-energy Punk Rock/Noise Rock song with a wall of sampled voices (some normal speed, some chipmunk speed) and a sinister Moog riff. It's basically a warning to the listener exactly what they've gotten themselves into, as the album only gets crazier from there.
  • Laughing Mad: "Chromosome Damage" ends with some distorted, yet noticeably psychotic laughter.
  • Lead Drummer: Damon provided drums on the first four albums in addition to keyboards and vocals. Starting with Blood on the Moon, he delegated drumming to other members.
  • Lighter and Softer: The band went in this direction after Creed's departure.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Damon and his messy dark hair and sunken eyes, see the page image.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "March of the Chrome Police (A Cold Clammy Bombing)" is an ode to Cold War paranoia, yet the music is the closest the band ever got to Power Pop.
  • Kubrick Stare: Seemed to be Damon's natural expression.
  • Madness Mantra: "Time, zero... time, zero... time, zero... time azuhzuh...time azuhzuh... time azuhzuh!!!"
  • Mind Screw: Once you've gotten a handle on their crazy music, try making sense of their album covers and promotional artwork.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The Inworlds single, the only cover to feature a mostly untouched photo of the band. Averted with every other cover of theirs.
  • New Sound Album:
    • Each album introduced new elements to the band's sound following the Latin and Krautrock-tinged Progressive Rock of The Visitation. Alien Soundtracks brought in the band's best-known Industrial Acid Punk sound, Half Machine Lip Moves solidified the sound by focusing on the Punk Rock/Noise Rock/cut-and-paste elements, Red Exposure had a much cleaner production more akin to New Wave, and Blood on the Moon developed a more Industrial Metal sound.
    • Damon Edge's first post-Helios album, Into the Eyes of the Zombie King, moved the band in a more Goth Rock, Synth-Pop sound.
    • Helios' first post-Damon album, Retro Transmission, returned the band to Industrial Rock, albeit heavily based on Helios' own solo recordings. Starting with the 2012 single "PROPHECY", the band returned to a mix of all of the sounds from the classic Edge/Creed era.
  • New Wave Music: Dabbled in it in the comparatively poppier "Anti-Fade" and "Meet You in the Subway" tracks from the Subterranean Modern compilation, the Inworlds single, and the Red Exposure album.
  • Ninja Zombie Pirate Robot: "Magnetic Dwarf Reptile".
  • Noise Rock
  • Noodle Incident: Some of the more-intelligible found audio clips, due to being taken out of context, make you wonder exactly what the context was. For example, this clip from "The Monitors":
    "In a moment Pat Stevens, who hates buttermilk, is going to-"
  • Post-Punk
  • Precision F-Strike: The final chorus of "A Cold Clammy Bombing"
    "A cold clammy bombing
    Will shit on... your town"
  • Punk Rock: The band developed alongside Punk and was influenced by it in the early years, particularly Punk progenitors The Stooges.
  • Record Producer: DIY version
  • Revolving Door Band: Damon and Helios are the only constant members, depending on the era. The current Helios-led lineup has been mostly stable for the last several years.
  • Sampling:
    • Almost everything from Alien Soundtracks through Red Exposure has a found audio clip, as do a few other stragglers.
    • On the opposite side, Saul Williams sampled "SS Cygni" for his song "Give It Up".
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Rm. 101" opens with the usual cacophony of synth and guitar noise, but then gives way to clean, ambient guitar noodling.
  • Stage Names: Damon Edge (Thomas Wisse) and Helios Creed (Barry Johnson).
  • Synth-Pop: The post-Helios, Damon-led era through The '80s.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Their music usually averts this, being very multi-layered and heavily processed, though Blood on the Moon qualifies by comparison, due to it being the band's most direct, most song/riff-based, and least fussy album.
  • The Unintelligible: Both Damon and Helios run their voices through several effects. Earlier recordings also had the two outright babbling incoherently.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Both Damon and Helios shared vocals between Alien Soundtracks and Chronicles, though who did what isn't immediately obvious.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: If you can make them out, the grand majority of their lyrics are nonsensical.
  • Word Salad Title: "TV as Eyes", "Half Machine Lip Moves", "Magnetic Dwarf Reptile", "Pharaoh Chromium", "Unbreakable Flouride Lithium Plastic", "Himalayanelimination", "Sex Pocket Meister".

"Not a flaw, not a miss. You're way on top.
Like a classic car. A firebomb."

Alternative Title(s): Chrome