One could talk of the fifty years of dreary minor key development in the classical music that followed the Sturm und Drang movement of the late 1700’s the same way they might look upon the highly competitive meshing of copycats and innovators within ‘modern’ death metal’s cumulative darkening. The graveyards are full, the dead lie rotting in the street. Those corpses that infuse progressive hard rock and classic heavy metal into death metal music are among the most celebrated today, despite a couple decades of fandom still sneering at the death n’ roll of the 90’s. The main difference is that Xysma and Entombed looked to groups like King Crimson and Black Sabbath before they began to cherry-pick their favorite elements form other bands within their scene; In 2018 it seems that many groups base their future movements off of the inspiration of their friend’s work in other bands. Whatever band lasts the longest will still ultimately represent old school death metal all the same while a few, such as Obliteration, have grown cumulative-yet-distinct in their rise. Chapel of Disease arrived as a death/thrash band from Cologne, Germany that was simultaneously developed (between 2008-2011) alongside their early Sodom obsessed blackened thrash metal band Infernäl Death. As one project crumpled, so rose its death metal counterpart.
Despite what your catalog savvy mind and memory suggests there are very few records like ‘Summoning Black Gods’ (2012) as a document of late 80’s and very early 90’s death and death/thrash metal. Chapel of Disease were compelling not only for their marriage of Asphyx and Death influenced death metal but for their integration of speed metal that brought in the 80’s Morbid Angel influence that is often characteristic of German ‘old school’ minded death metal. To a fan such as myself this is accomplishment enough, the riffs are stunning, the sound is necrotic and the thrash energy makes ‘Summoning Black Gods’ a joy to return to regardless of mood or shifting tastes. The band then took three years to figure out what they’d do next, I always just assumed their style changed a fair amount because that first record was exemplary and not in need of variation or redundancy. The resulting album ‘The Mysterious Ways of Repetitive Art’ (2015) was arresting as a midway point between the 70’s rhythmic jolts of Tribulation‘s ‘The Formulas of Death’ and the varietal flow of The Chasm‘s ‘The Spell of Retribution’ with those melodic black metal influences tempered with atmospheric death metal a la the second Tiamat album. It was one of my personal favorites of the year but there were some odd moments that I saw fellow fans praising, in particular the rock guitar finale of “Lord of all Death”. It was death n’ roll then, it is death n’ roll now in 2018.
The major difference is that the thrash riffs that helped pick up the sagging butt end of the first two Chapel of Disease records are now exempted from ‘…And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye’ which seems to doubly expand upon the concept of “Lord of All Death” with an ‘epic heavy metal’ feeling where atmospheric black metal guitar work, and a twangy 70’s rock lead guitars become a major focus. They’ve actually gone deeper into the realms of ‘The Formulas of Death’ and amplified the southern rock twang up to Kvelertak (and to a lesser degree, Glorior Belli) levels of bounce. What strikes me as odd isn’t so much that mixture of death metal and retro rock guitar work but, that modern death metal listeners recognize 70’s and bluesy 80’s guitar god rock soloing as traditional heavy metal. It isn’t. While you will find similarly epic works in certain Fleetwood Mac or Dire Straits albums you won’t find post-black metal guitar work adorning it anywhere else. Atmospheric post-southern rock death metal? Well, not exactly, but you might think so when digging into the opener “Void of Worlds” and the later half of the album.
The following seven minutes of “Oblivious / Obnoxious / Defiant” does ring out as a sort of blackened thrash anthem (see: recent Deströyer 666) but through a sort of refinement of what Horrendous were doing on ‘Ecdysis’. The progressions are beautiful and the atmospheric guitar work is stirring, if not compositionally plain, yet it reaches into a different bag of tricks that feels plastic compared to say, Morbus Chron‘s ‘Sweven’. With six tracks each wandering well above the six minute mark Chapel of Disease have made an odd choice in front-loading their album with energy, this comes as a surprise because the previous records each picked up steam as they ended. ‘…And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye’ doesn’t dissolve willingly in it’s second half but the rock soloing from the Teubel brothers takes over entirely and leaves the death metal interest in the dust. What is left is a mixture of atmospheric black metal builds and hard rock guitar textures (see: “Null”) comprising more than half of the record. I take no real issue with these tracks, I think as an atmospheric heavy rock song “1,000 Different Paths” is a pretty solid jam with Quorthon-esque clean vocals even; Yet, when I get to the 9+ minute closer “The Sound of Shallow Grey” I begin to flounder on the record a bit. A great song in it’s own right that’ll provide some inspiration for blackened heavy metal fandom, this stylistic shift away from death metal still feels like an usurpation of the things I initially enjoyed about Chapel of Death.
How then does this adventurous and clearly inspired album fare as a full listen? Roughly a half hour of catchy prog-rocking death/black bliss and then twenty minutes of redundant but epic black n’ roll. I felt such marked enthusiasm for this record for the first several listens but I held out on reviewing it too soon because the second half had already begun to irk me. Ultimately I could not reconcile about a fourth of the music on this nearly fifty minute record despite giving myself time to move beyond expectations and fandom. My recommendation of it is about that strong; Still an essential listen from a band I enjoy but, the second half of the album will either make or break the experience for the death metal fan depending on how far you’d see the boundaries expand. To really get a good sense of the duality I perceived within the records two halves I’d start with the Rotting Christ-esque riffs of “Null” and then juxtapose that with the heavy and catchy hit of “Oblivious / Obnoxious / Defiant”.
Symbolic realms soon dissolved. 4.0/5.0
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