You’ll need to put your seatbelts on to listen to CHROMA’s new album Ask For Angela. Not the saloon car diagonal, but full on racing harness that X you into the car seat ready to take on the kinds of G-forces this album will put you through. It’s a glam-bam-thank-you-ma’am record of epic riffs and pounding beats; earth-shaking bass and one of the highest anthem counts of any record around. It brings as much amplified power as it does supercharge female empowerment; even the album’s title was chosen to highlight the ‘Ask For Angela’ campaign which is a “not for profit scheme that aims to ensure that anyone who is feeling vulnerable or unsafe is able to get the support they need.”* Vocalist Katie Hall says “What has helped us is asking other people for support during tough times and knowing that you’re not alone.”
The album opens with the hurricane force of ‘Don’t Wanna Go Out’, with its mantra of “Don’t wanna go out but I’m going out anyway”, and one solid reason to go when you don’t wanna is to hear this performed live. With each track you might think they can’t sustain the level of energy from the track before but not so. There’s the heavy-rock-with-a-disco-beat on ‘Girl’s Talk’, the glorious tumble of the underlying riff bouncing around ‘Don’t Mind Me’, which is a fuzzed-up delight, and then there’s ‘Woman to Woman’. This is a standout track in a sea of standout tracks and listening to it feels like trying to outrun a rockslide. It’s the perfect union between medium and message as vocalist Katie Hall says, “there’s no place for transphobia in my idea of what feminism is”, and when she switches from low vocals to a chorus that scrapes the upper atmosphere it is truly exhilarating.
Ask For Angela was recorded during lockdown at Giant Wafer Studios and it’s a testament to producer Steffan Pringle that he manages to balance everything to create a distinct sonic personality for the whole album. That means balancing the booming drums on ‘Head In Transit’ against its broken glass guitar, control the muffled grunge of ‘I Wanna Be Where You Are’ or the tectonics of ‘Life’s a Bitch’, which sounds like it was recorded deep in the earth’s crust, ‘Look At Me’ which is part-Rezillos and part-Black Sabbath and the epic widescreen final track ‘Over The Hill’. I can only assume that the studio had to replace a few speaker cones during mixing and they might want to get a structural engineer to come out and check the foundations.
CHROMA are Katie Hall on vocals and guitar, Liam Bevan on bass, and Zac Mather on drums. The power of 3 is strong in the band and they know how to utilise their instruments to build colossal music. They also wanted this album to be a safe space and reflect the power of inclusion not division. Ask For Angela covers everything from sexual harassment, mental health, ‘TERF wars’, social anxiety, and how proud they are to have grown up in the Welsh valleys despite the current poverty that’s currently challenging its communities. But surrounding the messages like an electrified halo is how energising it is listening to their music. It makes the listener feel 10 feet tall and able to take on anything and that is a rare gift.
Ask For Angela is out now on Alcopop! Records
*It’s a sobering fact that a recent investigation by UN Women UK found that 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed—with a further 96% not reporting those situations because of the belief that it would not change anything.
Review by Paul F Cook