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Old Chapel > Tales from the Churchyard > Reviews
Old Chapel - Tales from the Churchyard

Graveslab gurgling - 44%

gasmask_colostomy, June 14th, 2018

Despite some great music recorded following this debut, Old Chapel did not make a very positive first impression with their brand of slow death metal. Recorded less than a year before their strong EP Symptoms of Possession, Tales from the Churchyard is a grimmer, lower-pitched, and ultimately much more boring experience that doesn’t show the skilled development in atmospheric mastery and riffing power that the three-piece would eventually perfect. Joined here by session bassist Artem Vorobyev, vocalist Pavel Suslov dominates proceedings with an unfortunately poor performance of guttural and ill-defined death grunts that sound as if he is recovering after a big meal and a lot of beer. Coupled with an unhelpful production, that’s enough to bring the lengthy songs to their knees.

The basic construction of the five compositions here is similar: slow chugging or crushing guitar riffs grind onwards like a blind bulldozer, the rhythm instruments trying to instill some sense of experimentation into the simple grooves. I say trying, because Old Chapel are not blessed with much help from the studio staff, who left Tales from the Churchyard with a crippling lack of punch both from the drums and the admittedly atmospheric guitar tone. Sluggish genres such as doom or slow death need a strong percussive foundation and Sergey Karpukhin doesn’t have much opportunity to affect proceedings, crammed into a corner as his kit sounds in the mix. The broader guitar tone is suitable for the mood that the Russians were aiming for – one of sickness and creeping horror – though the riffs aren’t nearly so interesting as the band’s later efforts, nor do they have the advantage of switching between fast and slow sections like Asphyx and Autopsy mastered a couple of decades ago. When ‘Rot in Peace’ attempts to speed up with blasting and clambering riffing, the weakness of the instruments is simply crippling, while Suslov is left uttering something that sounds like “rotten piss”, though I guess is probably the title.

Suslov’s awkward and monotonous vocal approach is also one of two channels that were given sufficient volume in the studio, though this is not to the advantage of the record, since the lyrics are extensive and leave the music too much covered by his graveslab gurgling. The other instrument that comes through clearly is the lead guitar, which is very trebly, cutting through the deathly sludge with ease. The solos are not terribly well-organized, though do provide a welcome contrast to the murky riffing, while the lead melodies work much better, conjuring atmosphere without even trying and taking the place of the album’s finest feature. Both elements of Old Chapel’s sound mentioned in this paragraph would improve substantially after this album however.

As a result of the general poverty of the music, I don’t have much to say about each song, because nothing on the release really draws the listener deeper into the experience; nonetheless, ‘Possessed by Evil Spirit’ is probably the finest composition on offer, offering the most interesting structure, more lead work, and several changes of pace. ‘Marsh of the Banshee’ is the place where I get most frustrated, but that’s probably down to the monotony building up gradually than any particular crimes committed on that track. Knowing that this song begins only 20 minutes into the album might be the most damning indication of its quality, so I leave the fact to speak for itself. Try the other Old Chapel releases instead.

-- May Diamhea's feat of 100 reviews in 7 days remain unbeaten --