Chevalier, the five piece speed metal band based in Helsinki, Finland, is one I am somewhat familiar with. After all, ‘Chapitre II’, the band’s last EP released in February of 2018, was one of the first reviews I wrote for that year. I didn’t find it to be a particularly strong release, but it did have some interesting ideas on display, and distinct potential for improvement. So, it certainly sparked my curiosity to find that Chevalier was releasing a new, full length album, ‘Destiny Calls’, with the distinct intention to preserve the atmosphere and lo-fi production of their previous EP. A gritty, bare bones sound can be used to great effect for building an atmosphere in a record, so I’m certainly not opposed to that approach. However, something I was particularly hoping for was an emphasis on songwriting improvement, with stronger song structure, and memorable, catchy hooks to keep things interesting and compelling. A balanced mix would also have worked wonders for the record too. So, the question is, did Chevalier deliver on ‘Destiny Calls’? Not really, no.
The album starts off fine, with an atmospheric, low-fi synth introduction that sets a nice soundscape for the mood and direction the rest of the record intends to take. The first song, The Immurement, starts promisingly. It has that raw, analogue sound that characterized some classic 80s speed metal albums, with the bass taking up a big chunk of the soundscape, and the guitars sounding a bit thinner in the mix. The drums seem to be approached from a more minimalist perspective of production, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But then the vocals come in. And everything else is just swallowed by this swash of echo and reverb. It reminds me of when I was a kid watching TV, and my grandpa would jump in front of the tv and exclaim “LOOK AT ME I’M ON TV!”. It just feels jarring and conflicting, rather than complimentary of the rest of the instrumentation, and I just wanted it to stop so I could go back to listening to the instruments again.
Listen to In The Grip Of The Night HERE
In regards to the songwriting direction, there are elements I do like. The song structures are more progressive in nature, often changing tempo and throwing in different instrumental lines to add variety to the overall sound. However, the guitar work itself isn’t quite interesting enough to stand on its’ own, and without accompanying melody it can begin to become bland and boring. The lead lines are good, and do compliment the songs, but they aren’t absolutely spectacular. The drumming and bass are strong as a backbone for the rest of the instrumentation, but there is a limit for how much they can add to songs to make them more interesting.
Listen to Stormbringer HERE
Again, looking towards the vocals, they just don’t sound like they compliment anything. There is such little deviation in melody that it just sounds monotonous with the occasional high or low note at the end of a phrase. The delivery of the lines also seems jarring, with random lines often coming in without any logical flow in context with the rest of the music. It sounds like being loud and bold was the main focus, with actually singing being an afterthought. And finally, the choruses are just lacklustre. They’re not melodically interesting, and there’s nothing that catchy about them. No really memorable hooks, and nothing that particularly makes anything seem like a particular focal point of the song.
‘Destiny Calls’ has some good ideas to it. I like the atmosphere they were starting to set up, and I like what they sounded like they were doing with the instrumentation. The instrumentalists are good at what they do, and I can absolutely appreciate the work they put into the album. I even like the bare bones production style. But what really lets this album down is the vocals and the lack of interesting melody to tie everything together. Nothing really stands out as being spectacular, but the vocals are what really just made the experience unenjoyable. I really would like to see an improvement from this band, because all its members are clearly capable musicians, but I just can’t find myself enjoying this release.