Chrome: Perfumed Metal


Chrome: Firebomb single (1982).

I seem to have spent the past twenty-five years introducing people to Chrome. The world remains stubbornly resistant to their splendour, so here we go again…

Chrome were a San Francisco rock band born in the mid-Seventies, primary members Damon Edge and Helios Creed, ostensibly part of the punk thing but their sound is most aptly characterised by shorthand descriptions such as “Cabaret Voltaire meets Amon Düül II”. A newspaper ad for their Blood On The Moon album bore the legend “New Perfumed Metal”, and Perfumed Metal (the name of a track from Blood On The Moon) is how I tend to think of their blend of chugging riffs, synth squall, distorted vocals and tape collage. Those diverse and contradictory characteristics—perfume, metal—were embodied in the name of their record label, Siren, which encapsulates in a single word reference to erotic mythology and industrial noise. Chrome are/were a difficult band to categorise and describe, so I’m fortunate that Julian Cope has risen to the challenge already with this great potted history and a look at their finest musical moments. Cope’s site also features a lengthy appraisal by another reviewer of their unhinged masterpiece, Half Machine Lip Moves.


Chrome’s covers were almost all the work of Damon Edge, usually collages with titles hand-scrawled in Edge’s angular script. The Firebomb single above (also the cover art of the 3rd From The Sun album) became the band’s defining image, a lion-head door-knocker transformed into some bug-eyed alien organism by the simple addition of a pair of oversize eyes. Their second album was titled Alien Soundtracks so this is entirely appropriate. As Julian Cope puts it in his usual inimitable style:

So the vibe created is definitely very Sci-Fi, but no gleaming clean surfaces from Beyond The Year 2000 here. It’s a bit like in the original “Alien” movie (also from 1979 coincidentally), where the technology is “advanced” but the space ships are dank & dirty and all the equipment keeps breaking down. Science will not only bring forth smiling nuclear families with robot maids flying around in hover cars, but also ever-more-crowded metropolitan slums and squalor and new designer chemicals to help stave off (or feed?) dread and paranoia. To borrow a term coined nearly a decade later, Chrome’s is a “CYBER-PUNK” vision of the future.

The vision didn’t last for long but then most bands have a golden period of four or five years which is then dissipated in personnel splits or changes in musical direction. Chrome’s golden period ran from 1978 to 1982; longer than most and definitely worthy of your attention.

Official website
Damon Edge | Helios Creed
• Chrome on YouTube: Meet You In The Subway (1979) | New Age (1980)

Select discography:
Alien Soundtracks (1978)
Half Machine Lip Moves (1979)
Subterranean Modern (1979) (compilation album with other artists)
Read Only Memory (1979) 12″ EP
Red Exposure (1980)
Blood on the Moon (1981)
3rd from the Sun (1982)
No Humans Allowed (1982)
The Chronicles I (1982)
The Chronicles II (1982)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Barney Bubbles: artist and designer
Metabolist: Goatmanauts, Drömm-heads and the Zuehl Axis
Maximum heaviosity

11 thoughts on “Chrome: Perfumed Metal”

  1. You’ve heard early Sleep Chamber haven’t you? The material around the time of ‘Sexmagick Ritual’ , ‘Satanic Sanction’ , and ‘Sacrosancts’ has a similarly dirty, dark, mysterious atmosphere about them, only more straight ambient in style, whereas Chrome’s (what I’ve been able to hear) sound like some crazy bastard hybrid of early industrial and post-punk. Since none of their releases that truly intrigue me are available for anything less than around $120, and there is still that damn expensive Lovecraft-Art book from centipede that I want, I am just going to have to wait on Chrome.

  2. $120? Yike…is this original vinyl or something? Some of the old Cleopatra CD releases should be knocking around cheaper.

    Don’t think I’ve heard any Sleep Chamber that I remember. I pretty much lost interest in that second/third wave of industrial stuff in the mid to late 80s. Not that there isn’t good there, just that my attention wandered. I lost interest in Chrome and Edge and Creed’s work post-Chrome as well, although Helios has done some good albums since.

    Yes, Chrome were in the vanguard of that sound although with more of a rock feel. I think the rockier side put off the Cabaret Voltaire/Throbbing Gristle fans who otherwise might have liked them. There’s even some metallic percussion in places that predates groups like Einstürzende Neubauten and Test Department.

  3. Yeah, a CD I’ve seen of ‘third from the sun’ was actually a double album disk whose other record, ‘Zombie king, something’ had a rickety drum machine going as well. It’s that dirty, irrational feeling I’ve gotten from the samples and songs that I’ve heard that reminded me of SleepChamber, I’d definitely just call them ambient, I believe I’ve read that every ‘industrial’ band contemporary to their time absolutely hated SleepChamber. One the CDs that was so expensive was a Cleopatra, what a damn shame.

    I definitely like your artwork for Cradle of Filth, but by the time of your correspondence with them my interest was shot. Around the release of their first video (the only one that really peaked my interest- PanDaemonAeon, I believe) I wasn’t sure what to make of them. That was about the time the line-up started changing just constantly. Yet, I always liked that video, and would always imagine odd, old bands reappearing like Univers Zero or the like, and making a similar video with a more entertaining soundtrack. Now I am getting that feeling about Chrome. The fact that I just saw that stupid movie ‘Grindhouse’ which I loved in spite of my remark, has gotten me stuck in that decades old pulpy, genre-bending, sleazy movie state of mind.

  4. That’d be Into the Eyes of the Zombie King by the post-Helios Chrome. Not the same quality as the early albums at all. Cleopatra put the albums out on CD mixing the good, older works with the often very poor later ones. This hasn’t helped the band’s reputation at all.

    I’m looking forward to Grindhouse although mainly for the Tarantino half. Rodriguez has ended up boring me in the past, he lacks Tarantino’s wit. I think I may have to wait to see this on DVD then I can fast forward if necessary. ;) The poster art is cool, authentically tacky.

  5. I actually liked Rodriguez’s half a little better, but I won’t tell you why yet, as it would ruin it for you. I’ll just assure you that both are appropriately tasteless. I didn’t think the Zombie King sounded as good either.

    As I am writing this, seeing as how bands are part of the discussion, have you ever heard of a band called ‘Less’? I heard about them recently on the website of the artist Dan Ouellette, and just got their album ‘cover, protective, individual’ for very cheap. I haven’t listened to their other stuff, but this album is very – somber middle-eastern meets older rock. Very recommended.

  6. John

    Thanks for the tip-off – one worth pursuing. I was first aware of them from one of the Roger Dean Album Covers books, which featured the ‘Blood On The Moon’ cover (a title which I’d always assumed they’d “appropriated” from Ellroy’s novel, published at around the same time). Cope’s erudite overview was the clincher, and a brief trawl hauled in a few mp3’s, including ‘TV As Eyes’ which certainly lives up to Cope’s hyperbole and sounds like The Stooges emerging 10 years later and using the technology available. ‘Cyber-Punk’ is too easy a summary of a band that seemed to exist purely to explode conventions – at least from what I’ve heard so far.
    Keep those recommendations coming.


  7. have you ever heard of a band called Less

    No I haven’t but I look out for them. Middle eastern sounds promising since I love Arabian music.

    Rik: I thought Ellroy wrote Blood on the Moon later than that? There’s a film–a Western, I think–with that title as well. Stars Jimmy Cagney as I recall.

    Half Machine Lip Moves is definitely the key Chrome album. After that they tailed off and the later ones in the select list above are a fairly straight, science fiction-inflected rock music. Still good for all that, especially No Humans Allowed (half of which is the wacked-out tape experiments of Read Only Memory) and the 20 minutes of Wings Born In The Night on Chronicles 1.

  8. I first met CHROME by pure chance, four video-clips alongside a concert by BAUHAUS, in a VHS tape, which was the real attraction to me, at the time.
    But when I saw those guys in a subway, dressed like the guys in Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, all negative image, i thought something special was there.
    Couldn’t trace any of their records in Brazil, but I do have some Nik Turner’s CDs which features Helios Creed, plus the PRESSUREHEAD experience.

  9. I’m sorry, were we seperated at birth?

    I seem to have read all the same books and seen all the same films/ TV as you, at the roughly the same age, see a long and compictaed post/ exchange on the ‘Kill Your Pet Puppy’ site (where I give you a plug), on this subject.

    Anyway, love Chrome, totally agree about the shoddy Cleopatra CD releases, but I have to say my favourite Chrome LP is ‘Third from the Sun’ if only for ‘Armageddon’. The way the song emerges from a kind os swirling mist of white noise just stops my heart everytime.

    I am currently playing it at FULL VOLUME, because I can.

    “Technicians on the moon feel safer than you” – could you ask for a better image to sum up the apocalyptic dread of the times (is it too late to copyright that phrase?).

    Nearly as good is the ‘In a Dream/ Dangerzone’ 12″.

    I managed to download the rare first LP ‘The Vistation’ recently (sorry can’t remember where now), plus there’s now a DVD (Dual Forces) featuring several of the original Chrome promos as well as some Helios Creed stuff.

    Chrome Videos:
    New Age (color version)
    Meet Me in the Subway
    Danger Zone
    Armageddon (Live 1998)

    Helios Videos:
    Your Spaceman
    Sandbox Jungle
    The Rant
    Beginning of Light (Live 2006)

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