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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...