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Doomed, plodding demo-lition - 73%

Zodijackyl, July 1st, 2012

Haunting clean guitars introduce Black Chalice over four minutes where atmosphere builds, inevitably leading to lo-fi doom where a dark atmosphere looms over the plodding march of the rhythm guitars. A contrast is built between distant, ethereal leads and dominant rhythms that sound like they are rising from a cave. A drum machine punches away in the background, a distant rhythm below the cavernous sound of the guitars. The rhythm guitars sound massive, with the lead/melodies cutting through when they appear, but the vocals staying low and the drums being nearly doomed from audibility.

The elements at work here seem to be a reversal of a lot of doom these days - while doom metal bands of this day often rely heavily on a great tone and weak riffs, Black Chalice is the other way around - good songwriting and good riffs, but weak production that leaves something to be desired. The desire is strong, because the music sounds great through much of the demo. The sound is suitable for the first half, but five minutes into the third song, there is an exceptional movement where a melodic guitar lead takes control of the music, and while it's a great part, I know that this section could sound so much better if it did not sound like it was recorded in an underwater cave. I really like the music and the production doesn't detract from it most of the time, but the pinnacle of half an hour of exceptional music feels buried, rather than pronounced and displayed in its best form. It's a demo, and I would love to hear the same music captured more effectively, with the great amps and recording that so many doom bands couldn't use as well as Black Chalice could.

The songwriting is simple, but very effective. Without looking at the clock, I wouldn't know that an exceptional section repeated for well over two minutes, but it is a testament to the strength of the songwriting that one riff could be repeated for that long and when it ended, I only wanted to hear it again. The third and fourth tracks both do this, where a very simple rhythm plods along while a simple melody intertwines with it on another guitar. In other music, a melody can often lead a song over a very short timespan, but rarely can a song be led by a part like this, long enough that it tops the duration of some songs.

Simple riffs and arrangements emphasize a crushing sound and excellent doom metal atmosphere. The songwriting is efficient - every riff is worth it - never a dull moment, only a few moments where the riffs deserve massive production that I can't really expect from a demo, though the sound is as strong as many pro releases with similar styles. It's a good listen and the only downside of the demo is that it's good enough that it shows more potential than a demo could capture. Check this out and watch the band in the future.