Words By Friederike Wiessner.
Haunting the German Metal underground since 2010, Chapel of Disease have recently come out with their third full length album ‘…and as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye‘. After their Demo and Split in 2012, the band released two albums, ‘Summoning Black Gods’ (2012) and ‘The Mysterious Ways of Repetitive Art’ (2015), through the small German label FDA Records – for their new record, the Death Metallers from Cologne have signed with iconic Ván Records.
Compared to their previous releases, it is quite conspicuous that Chapel of Disease sport a somewhat more fuzzy and vintage-inspired guitar sound on this latest album; however, without letting go of rawer Death-Metal energies that mostly characterise their older recordings. By also allowing sound aesthetics of Black Metal into their new compositions, the band certainly shows a willingness to free themselves from genre fetters.
The first track Void of Worlds busts out a rather surprising Bölzer-esque guitar and vocal aesthetic, uniquely combined with brighter and vintage-sounding guitar accents, which makes up a fascinating and rhythmically captivating whole. A minor point of criticism is the minimally stumbling transition into a slower, quieter and both bass- and synth-dominated passage that nevertheless quickly manages to entrance the listener with a harmonious interplay of sound elements. At last, it smoothly transitions into a more energetic and very 70s guitar-solo-dominated finale.
We seamlessly move into the next track Oblivious – Obnoxious – Defiant; the beginning raises the tension again and is a logical yet refreshing continuation of the previous seven minutes. Straight-forward drum hammering, warm and fuzzy guitars that at times transform themselves into more plastic shredding as well as bellowing vocals still make us think that parts of the iconic Bölzer riffing style were put into a time machine and fortified with hefty 70s spirit. In saying this, it is crucial to add that this track convinces with originality, especially when it comes to the nifty structuring and the transitions between the more and less heavy parts.
Concerning the third tune Song Of The Gods, the question of originality becomes partly a little shaky, however. The atmosphere of the intro is dominated by obscure guitar melodies, impressively developing into warmly distorted and thrilling riffing. Very soon, these guitars become strongly atmospheric and piercing, making passages from Mgła‘s undoubtedly influential album Exercises in Futility stunningly easy to recall. At times it is nearly unsettling to hear the endings of some riffs that one expects to end differently, or rather: familiarly. This is not to say that the tune is not aurally pleasing or catchy, but it leaves a bit of confusion behind.
The next track Null starts off mighty and slow, sprinkles in some vintage bits before departing into a bleaker and faster, yet somewhat carried, soundscape that convincingly continues the sound aesthetics of the previous tune whilst also bringing in a bit more guitar rawness from the beginning of the album. With over nine minutes, this song is the second longest of the album and, after the first three minutes, it does not quite excite the listener for the remaining two thirds. It appears to be a little made to fit a sound expectation. Luckily, though, a bright and warm guitar solo developing into fuzzier and more distorted melodies divides the song in the middle and manages to bring back some of the lost tension. The tune moves along harmoniously but it somewhat fails to create a truly ear-catching uniqueness.
Slowly trickling retro guitars and mysteriously charismatic clean vocals make for an interesting start of 1,000 Different Paths; this tune proceeds velvety and smoothly, mostly counting on instrumentals. A wonderful breather before embarking onto the nearly 10-minute-long finaleThe Sound of Shallow Grey. This one starts off like a fresh breeze of energy, letting the guitars shine with an aerial and bright sound; very soon rough vocals set in and beautifully harmonise with melancholic and atmospheric background riffs as well as clean guitar melodies. We also get a sprinkle of crystal-clear, somewhat ambient and very 80s keyboard melodies but we mostly get carried away by the effortless stream of catchy leitmotifs and a balanced mixture of light and dark, raw and refined, retro and modern. A successful conclusion that ties the numerous facets of the entire album together.
Overall, ‘…And As We Have Seen The Storm, We Have Embraced The Eye’ is a solidly heavy and aesthetically coherent release that clearly shows that Chapel of Disease are brave and daring enough to break genre boundaries. In parts, though, it becomes tempting to wonder whether the switch to Ván Records has contributed a little too much to the new sound that at times appears to be somewhat streamlined to become a people pleaser for Ván-Records enthusiasts.