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Surviving the 90’s Was Nearly an Option - 57%

bayern, May 4th, 2018

The first Gorefest album I purchased was “Erase” in 1994, and only cause I read a really positive review in one of the metal magazines (don’t remember which one exactly anymore). It was a cool, interesting adjustment to the ruling groovy/aggro forces the band riding the crest of the newly spawned post-death metal wave with all the seismic vigour they could muster. As this showing didn’t quite become my all-time favourite album of the 90’s, I didn’t bother to track down the guys’ earlier repertoire, but I did give the sequel “Sole Survivor” a listen when it came out two years later. It was good that I borrowed the cassette from a friend rather than buying it as this next chapter from the band’s career didn’t impress me at all, the guys having moved away from the post-death formula into a more playful, rock-ish direction, the contrast with the harsh throaty deathy vocals of Jan-Chris de Koeijer too stark to make this effort a recommended listen for the band old fanbase, and not only.

And the guys carried on down this path with this Chapter 13 here which, if we count correctly, is chapter 5 from their discography. The ties to metal are very thin and fragile as the band have epitomized an abrasive quasi-industrial brand of post-metal/rock as a possible farewell gesture to the passing decade, one that is comparable to Morgoth’s “Feel Sorry for the Fanatic”, Mercyless’ “Sure to Be Pure”, and even Paradise Lost’s “Host”, if you like, all these outings similar radical departures from the much more brutal roots of their creators.

De Koeijer hasn’t made any adjustments to his vociferous throaty singing style and his deathly rendings soar above this moderately noisy rockabilia which only sparingly reminds of the more belligerent spirit of “Erase” with the more courageous and intense “All Is Well” and “Nothingness”. These cuts seem like the solitary warriors here surrounded by sterile industrial stompers like “Broken Wing”, or relaxed bluesy semi-ballads like “Smile” and the all-instrumental idyll “Bordello”. The old fans will find it really hard to sit through the over 6-min pleasant balladisms on “F.S. 2000”, but those who choose to stay with the album may be mildly entertained on the more vivid “Unsung” which captures some of the boisterous character of Monster Magnet’s garage rock feats. Not too many more intriguing tricks of the kind here, though, the band more interested in stirring a dance floor fiesta with the rock’n roll-ish “Burn Out” and the country folk music inducer “Super Reality”, the epic gothic/doom Cemetary-sque swagger of the closing “Serve the Masses” wrapping it on with equally as optimistic, albeit a tad more aggressive riffage.

Mentioning Cemetary once again, if the vocals were along the lines of Mathias Lodmalm’s subdued, introspective semi-recitals this effort could have been way more tolerable; now it seems as though the band members couldn’t quite agree on the direction taken with De Koeijer voting to preserve his brutal vocals as a tie to the band’s past, and the others clearly determined to soften their musical approach as much as possible. The resultant amalgam is a strange listen on all counts, and one that probably has more character than other similarly-executed albums; it’s just that in all cases like this without exception there always comes the question as to how necessary it is for a once death, or black, or thrash metal act to contribute to the voluminous rock pool provided that hundreds of practitioners have chosen this path to follow unflinchingly…

Well, change and experimentation had pretty much become the norm during the 90’s so it shouldn’t be too surprising the deep metamorphoses witnessed in some camps; whether an attempt at a bigger commercial success or just a knee-jerk reaction to the volatile possibilities within the scene at the time, those were coming in draws from all corners of the world. Holland captured the fans’ imagination with their fascinating symphonic/gothic metal wave (The Gathering, Epica, Within Temptation, etc.) which shifted the focus from its death metal heroes thus giving the latter a chance to get away with anything… including with a mild friendly rock parade like the one here.

Was 13 the lucky number for the band? Not really since they split up soon after this opus’ release, but only to re-emerge invigorated five years later, ready for more exploits. Rock or death this time? The Spanish title of the comeback effort didn’t hint much either way, but the music delivery was firmly in the death metal camp, the guys having no illusions about any future stylistic meanderings, and even less so with “Rise to Ruin” that brought both the band and their fans back to earth being another solid slab of the good old death. Alas, the title of this last instalment very ironically reflected what occurred in the band’s camp as they were no more again mere few months later… until another rise? Yes, most likely; anyone who has survived the 90’s tribulations has learnt to fall and rise, emerging stronger and less destructible each time.

Misunderstood Chapter - 91%

longdistancerunner, July 15th, 2008

Every now and then I hear and see people writing or saying not so good words about this album. Some say it doesn't sound like Gorefest at all, some say the songwriting sucks, some say that it's the worst GF album and that the band had lost its spark... Well, I'm not going to argue with them and say that they're not right - everyone has his own opinion.

As for me, I really like this album... Yes, it stands out of the GF discography, being probably the most different album of all, but it's not a bad thing by any means. At first, I didn't like it as well. But later, when I returned to it, I realized the fact that I'm enjoying it while listening. This album just needs to be understood. And the attention should be paid to JC's lyrics, no doubt about that, because they are really good, especially some of them. Mostly they fit music just fine.

Gorefest is mostly associated with death metal scene (I mean by people who are not very familiar with them). The band title speaks for itself, because they started as a death metal band with gore lyrics. But you won't find any gore-related lyrics neither on this album, nor on any other GF album after the debut one, "Mindloss", and I'm only glad about this. "Chapter 13" can't be called a death metal album by any means, it even can't be called a metal album - I think most people, who've heard the record would agree with me. Sure, it's metal enough, but it also has a certain rock'n'roll vibe, and it works just fine in my opinion. Also, it's worth mentioning that there's a lot of experimental stuff on "Chapter 13" - on the one hand, it logically follows the path on the previous album, "Soul Survivor", and, on the other hand, it sounds very different. Mostly the changes are in JC's vocals - it's not only his well-known grunt presented here, but also some clean vocals, whispers, some strange stuff, like layered or distorted vocals. Sometimes it may seem a little annoying, so, it's taking some time to get used to it...

I won't do a song-by-song review, I'll just point out the most important tracks for me... Album starts with a pretty catchy title song - I bet most of you will remember the chorus after the first-second spin. Also I have to mention "Nothingness", "Smile" and "The Idiot" that come one after another. These songs have both good riffs by Frank & Boud as well as JC's memorable thought-provoking lyrics... Next highlight for me is "F.S.2000" - yep, it's not typical song for Gorefest at all, some people say it starts like AC/DC track and feature strange, not typical for JC vocals ... but I just love that song, it has the soul in my opinion. As track 11, we have "Burn Out", the track that starts with an acoustic guitar and then goes into a really groovy and memorable song - I really like the strong bass line provider by De Koeijer. After this track we have 2 last songs on the album - they sure kick ass - quite groovy and have a great rock'n'roll feel to it and solid vocal performance from Jan-Chris. And let's not forget great Ed Warby's drumming on the whole album. It's not typical metal drumming at all, and sure no typical death metal drumming at all, but it's something like a mix of different drumming schools - that's what Ed is famous for. Anyway, as I've said before, this album can't be understood without the careful listening session. But, in my opinion, all the songs of the "Chapter 13" album follow and fit one concept.

With this review, I want to encourage some people to listen to this album themselves, and not only judge this album by other peoples' reviews. Maybe you wouldn't like it... fine then, at least you tried and made up your own opinion. But maybe you'll like it as much as I did and you will be glad you gave "Chapter 13" a chance...