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What is all with the resurrection of old school death metal in Germany e.g. Slaughterday, Lifeless, Chapel of Disease? Not necessarily a bad thing but it’s hard to keep a track if the scene has tons of newcomers by the dozen. Invariably some cool releases will go under the radar of the hardcore fan unless the guy’s only job is to scan the internet for metal, metal and more metal and there are guys like that, believe me! Anyway, this was not the case here as I jumped upon the first chance to get the CD after just listening to a couple of songs off the album. The band is from Cologne, Germany and follows the tradition of European old school in the vein of Asphyx, old – Pestilence, Morgoth and Death’s Scream Bloody Gore.
The music and the songwriting are close to seamless here. Every component; be it the riffs, solos or vocals which are pretty close to Asphyx’s Martin Von Drunen are stacked like a completed Rubik’s cube. One, there is no unnecessary tinkering with the song structures as Chapel of Disease keep everything tight within the boundaries of old school death. Two, getting back to the songwriting, the music is backed up by a great production which is great unlike some albums which are muddled and hence lose that extra bit of edge. Three, the solos are tasteful and weave seamlessly with the rest of the parts. It feels like they are a natural extension of the riffs.
Let’s talk about the riffs here shall we? There are a multitude of emotions that are a direct result of the great songwriting and production. That’s the secret to engaging death metal. The riffs tick all the boxes as far eeriness, skull crushing and downright horror go. Take the example of the starter, “Summoning Black Gods”, the opening mid tempo doom laced riff gives away to a skull crushing one at 2:07 and then at 3:26 a mid-tempo paced section comes in before leading to one of the many fantastic solos. Nothing is stagnant, everything flows smoothly one after the other and nothing seems misplaced. Everything that is here was meant to be there. “Dead Spheres” opening riff is just downright eerie leading to a solid burst of Death’s Scream Bloody Gore like riffing. The overall similarity with Asphyx is obvious and Chapel does justice to the sound as they absolutely do not come off as copycats. Moving on through the album as the band seamlessly wade execute the songs in clinical fashion before hitting “Exili’s Heritage” which is a pure skullcrusher. Just when the listener has got into a groove, Chapel ups the tempo a notch. The album ends with another freaking beauty of a song, “The Loved Dead”.
There are no fillers and although the songs are pretty similar to each other; the riffing and their placements and not to mention solos keep the listener thoroughly engaged. There is never a dull moment to be had here. Chapel has a debut that is truly excellent and if solos are factored in, something of a lost art in extreme metal these days.
2012 year was a real turning point in Chapel of Disease career. At that time, after four years of rehearsing, they released a debut album called “Summoning Black Gods” (introduced by a demo and 7’’ split with Lifeless). Musically Germans don’t reinvent the wheel, as they offer well-known old-school death metal tunes. During these eight songs, they summoned several gods and visualized them before my senses. Names? The pantheon is easy to describe: Asphyx, old Pestilence, Bolt Thrower, old Grave, old Death. And I want to tell you, this album is a kind of a tribute to this 90-ies direction: these bands are the main inspiration for the Germans. And even if it is totally impossible to count right now all the new bands trying to exhume the old feelings and magic of mentioned glorious bands, but these Germans are definitely worth the trouble.
The album is of full value. The first thing is a really great front cover by Andrei Bouzikov. His awesome job with only three colors fits perfectly to the music and Lovecraft (mostly) inspired lyrics. And even if they are bathed in obvious sounds, this album isn’t a blind imitation of another grey copy-cat: from the first seconds of the opening title track till the last seconds of “The Loved Dead” they show the roots of death. These eight songs are rather simple compositions, yet with own identity and something interesting to offer. The clear (but not sterile!) production helps to hear all the good points of the album. The musicians act in full consciousness while dosing the emotions through the songs: admiration and ecstasy wave naturally with the best moments in “Evocation of the Father” and “The Nameless City” in the middle of the album, and during the last colossus “The Loved Dead”. The album emanates many layers of mystery and grimness (the best example in “The Nameless City”), and I have an impression that the sounds effectively fill my brain cells with an unspeakable horror and choky morbid atmosphere. The band changes the tempo and there is no song maintained in the same speed. And what is more, they didn’t forget about melodic tunes. So, beside aggressive, straightforward riffs, the band created quite memorable sullen moments as well, especially on the end of “Evocation of the Father”, which is probably the best one here… Of course, the melodic layers are used little by little, and they are played with a real class, but the main killing force here are varied portions of riffs and guitar leads in every song. Just take a listen to aforementioned “The Loved Dead” lasting eight minutes, in the Asphyx vein, with almost two minute doom opening! This roll crusher slashed my spine, definitely. Also it is the best track to say something about Laurent vocal devastation, as he is a gifted schoolchild of van Drunen. The vocals don’t bring anything new to the metal world, however they are good supplement to the whole.
So, is it possible to offer an exciting record that uses well-known and popular now (trendy?) patterns? Yes, it is! If you don’t believe, check this album out. But, such a tribute release is meant rather for die-hard old-schools metallers, or am I wrong? Among many old school death metal newcomers, this band definitely seems to be a better kind, bringing the sounds and emotions that I loved many years ago. This murderous crew is like a time machine serving you a journey to the old times, where only real death was reigning. In one interview (Chaos Vault webzine), Laurent confirmed editor words about one Sarcofago “Nightmare” classic song and ripping-off it in the beginning of “Dead Sphere”. Simply, they found this piece a natural riff for their song, and they did it. No bullshit like “man, we didn’t know that”, or “Sarcofago? Yes, but only first LP” and other stupid tales. Thus, the attitude of the band is clear for me: a total dedication and honesty in the music. Then, what do I want more? I’m closing my eyes, the chapel is opening with the first seconds of the title killer, and the black gods are taking a morbid shape: beyond any doubt, this album is a truly impressive piece of metal.
Few weeks ago I was lucky to purchase a copy of killer split 7”EP of two German death metal bands: Lifeless and Chapel of Disease. On that particular release I liked Lifeless music slightly more, their song was just amazingly good, but Chapel of Disease – who at that time was announcing the release of the debut album – also caught my attention, so I knew that I’ll have to check their first LP, as soon as it’s released. “Summoning Black Gods” has already been released and it’s an album, which I was listening to A LOT (REALLY! ) for the past two or three weeks. My hunch was right – this is damn amazing LP!
Once I've listened to “Summoning Black Gods” for the first time I was just blown away by this extremely great and crushing music. It seems like Chapel of Disease took some of my favourite albums from the early 90’s and compiling them together just recorded something very similar. Yeah, I know that it’s still just a copy, which will probably never get the same cult status as the originals and many will say that they don’t see a point in listening to something like this as they will always prefer the old stuff more. But think twice, when you say so, because really (REALLY) Chapel of Disease composed a number of awesome songs. I love the riffing, that dark and obscure, sinister atmosphere of their music and honestly I can say that I just cannot see anything what would be done wrong on “Summoning Black Gods”. OK, there’s one thing, which I don’t like here, I’ll mention that later, but it’s just a minor thing, so it definitely did not spoil the listening and I can really say that together with Coffin Texts’ amazing “The Tomb of Infinite Ritual”, “Summoning Black Gods” is my favourite album of the recent months and definitely one of the best ones of the whole year.
When I was a kid I loved Pestilence and early Death. I still do of corpse, but back then Mamelli’s band was my very favourite band of all. Nowadays I don’t have something like favourite band, because there’re too many of them and instead I have something like favourite 179 or something bands, hehe. But to this day I love the feeling, when I play the early Pestilence and early Death. I mention this, because “Summoning Black Gods” reminds me this feeling a lot. Chapel of Disease style is sort of combination of the “Malleus Maleficarum” and “Consuming Impulse” combined together with some very old Asphyx (“The Rack”), Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore” and “Leprosy”, Sarcofago's “Rotting” and with few more albums and bands, like Possessed’s “Seven Churches”, Massacra and Entombed from their “Left Hand Path” masterpiece. I love the production of “Summoning Black Gods” as it actually is as harsh and energetic as that early Pestilence, Death and Sarcofago LPs (listen to that fantastic guitar tone!) – I seriously think that while most of the current bands want to sound either like Incantation or some Swedish bands from Sunlight, Chapel of Disease along with Horrendous for instance went for something different and that makes their albums more special. Another thing, which I like are Laurent Teubl's vocals… Man, doesn't he sound like Martin van Drunen, but Martin from 20 years ago? There’s very similar expression of his voice, both spit their lungs out when screaming like possessed… but how great it sounds! Fuckin' excellent.
Basically all songs from “Summoning Black Gods” are excellent and I really don’t wish for anything more, when I listen to this album, so perfectly it sounds to my ears. There’s everything I like… A killer archaic death metal, which has almost some harsh thrash metal influence – check! Just listen to “Hymns of the New Land“, a great tribute to old Death and Pestilence. Crushing, dark and obscure slow, doomy riffing? Check, there’s song called “The Loved Dead”, which definitely belongs to my favourite tracks from the album. It is beautifully epic, dark and obscure and sounds very much in the vein of the early Asphyx! And the same can be said about “Evocation of the Father”. Some very fast death metal, which is able to break the walls and crush your skulls? Fuck, of course there’s a lot of that also! “Summoning Black Gods” has everything I love about the old styled death metal and all the songs are amazing.
I said that I have only one complain on this album. Yes, it is not huge, but one, which always comes to my mind, when I listen to “Summoning Black Gods”. A song called “Dead Spheres”… a good one, if you ask me, but why the hell did they decide to clearly RIP OFF this amazing old Sarcofago song called “Nightmare”???? This similarity is so obvious that it cannot be called an inspiration, as really what Chapel of Disease did in that opening fragment of this track is almost a complete copy, a rip off of “Nightmare”. At first I hoped it will just be that first riff and then they’ll change it, but even the part, which follows it, sounds very similar… Oh come on guys! You shouldn't have done that! I’m not accusing the band for deliberate stealing of Sarcofago’s riffs, maybe they have done it unintentionally, but the effect is clear and it really pisses me off. What’s more, even the guitar tone on that fragment sounds like production of the “Rotting” album. It’s good that Chapel of Disease after a couple of minutes takes the song into a different direction and luckily they didn't include a similar chorus like in “Nightmare”, but this feeling of going a step too far in imitating the old death metal albums is always there, when I listen to “Dead Spheres”. Something like this only will assure people, who say that all those new old styled death metal bands do nothing more, but steal the riffs, instead of making something own. I was never saying that so far and I’m not gonna say that about Chapel of Disease also, but in this particular fragment they definitely went a bit too far. Luckily, the rest of the album is just a fuckin' crusher, I have no doubt it will become a classic release of the current wave of old school death metal. A real must have in your collection!
Standout tracks: “The Loved Dead”, “Summoning Black Gods”, “Evocation of the Father” and all the rest!
Germany’s Chapel of Disease can be a rather confusing band if taken based solely on the artwork on their debut full length album, Summoning Black Gods, with the psychedelic feel that emanates from the artwork causing one to think of the band as one that plays music in the veins of stoner or doom metal. Yet Chapel of Disease very quickly proves one wrong, and though the music is far from what one might gather upon first impressions, it is equally crushing and relentless.
The cue that Chapel of Disease takes from Dutch bands such as Asphyx and even early Pestilence are rather clear as soon as the album begins proper after the ominous tolling of the bells, and the spine-tingling spoken sample on album opener Summoning Black Gods. And this done through not only that gritty and raw guitar tone that Dutch and Swedish death metal bands hold dear to, but also in the riffing styles of guitarists Cedric and Laurent, kicking off with a doom-laced riff before letting all hell break loose. This, combined with that drumming style of drummer David at times brings about strong similarities to Swedish death metal legends Entombed and other Swedish acts. Axeman Laurent also handles vocals, and the influences from Martin van Drunen are pretty obvious, with his howling style of vocals being rather reminiscent to the aforementioned. The lead guitars are also rather impressive here, and the wailing solos that are on Evocation of the Father are more than sufficient in sending chills down the listener’s back, reinforcing that morbid atmosphere that lingers throughout the album.
The bearing that old school bands have on Chapel of Disease‘s songwriting can be heard through the stylistic shifts that are present on the album. For instance, on Summoning Black Gods itself, the band constantly goes from aggressive, rage-fuelled thrashy segments to downright crushing, doom-paced sections, ensuring that not a single moment is let up for the listener to take a break at all. Descend to the Tomb even brings in a slight punk feel at times with the punkish beats of drummer David and the riffing styles on the track. As the album progresses as well, the thrash influences that the band has put into their songwriting also become more obvious, with riffs on tracks like The Nameless City even bringing in a slight Bay Area thrash sound, sounding like Metallica‘s Battery with the electric energy and is perhaps one of my favourite track off the album.
Despite this being Chapel of Disease‘s debut full length release, with the quality of the material that is on the album, the band play like veterans of the genre, evidence of the knowledge of their music. The perfect balance of crushing, doomish and faster segments make the album all the more enjoyable, ensuring that the listener is kept engaged from the start of the album right till the end.
Some part of me has to wonder: why all of this old school death metal lately? Do we fear the Mayan apocalypse so much that we must open a temporal gateway into those precious 1988-1993 moments and relive what for many of us must be the prime of our lives? Why not disco? Or West Coast gangsta rap? Okay, I might have gone a little too far. It's no surprise that Germans Chapel of Disease are yet another in a very long procession of acts to indulge their childhoods, and they do it with a very European flair, by which I mean they heavily channel the archaic sounds of Pestilence (and early Van Drunen-era Asphyx), Grave and Bolt Thrower into their compositions. Sure, you've also got a heavy dose of American elders Death, Possessed, Xecutioner/Obituary, Cianide and Autopsy which comes with the territory, but Summoning Black Gods more directly reminded me of an infernal conflagration between The Rack, Consuming Impulse, War Master and Into the Grave. And if that comparison just stirred up some excitement in your nether regions, well then...have at it.
Most of the techniques here are nothing special or inventive by any stretch of the imagination, but what the Germans do is inject a bit of vitality thanks to the rather raw production. This really feels like you've been zipped back to 1991 and saw that creepy looking metal tape in the window at the brick & mortar record shop and then counted your paper route profits in eager anticipation, only to be disappointed that that one other hardcore metal dude with the beat up Corvette and the mullet (who graduated a few years before you) already cleaned out the shop, with about ten others you might have wanted to purchase. The guitars are crunchy and clear but there is no attempt to overproduce anything. Summoning Black Gods is definitely attempting to evoke that narrow margin between thrash and death metal, so you've got some solid mid-paced violent antiquity in amongst the tremolo picked rhythms and slower, Bolt Thrower-styled, lamentation grooves and melodies. The riffs in the depths of "Descend to the Tomb" and "Hymns to the New Land" provide a living, breathing, wayback machine, and even when the band flirts with some death & roll rhythm ("Evocation of the Father"), etc, they do it with pretty good taste. In addition, the leads implemented on this debut are evil, airy and burst onto the scene like a luminous haunt flitting about a dark graveyard, not unlike old Entombed.
Paired with the ghastly Van Drunen impression that the vocalist here revels in, you've got yourself a genuine if derivative fright fest. His inflection is sort of a hybrid of what you'd remember from The Rack or Consuming Impulse, only with a little more echoing sustain that shadows the momentum of the churning guitars. The drums and bass have a loose but muscular feel to them, not all that interesting unto themselves but fully aligned with the retro feeling the album so desperately maintains. In terms of songwriting or individual riffs, there are not a lot here that reek of immortality, since they're just paying service to a long tradition of like sounding chords and notes, but there's no question Chapel of Disease love what they're doing, and the passion really turns what otherwise might feel like another spoke in the wheel of nostalgia to a full on haunted hot rod fuming spectral vapors and hemorrhaging hellfire in its wake. Summoning Black Gods is no marvel of greatness, but it knows and obeys its audience, so if you're the sort to keep his Autopsy and Asphyx vinyl dusted off and displayed, or you dig the recent efforts by groups like Horrendous, Skeletal Remains, Nocturnal Torment or Hail of Bullets, then I think you'll find that this belongs in your neck of the woods, like that old, foggy sepulcher that the local villagers feel strangely compelled to avoid...