Capilla Ardiente – The Siege [Things You Might Have Missed 2019]

When it comes to pure doom metal, I have an extremely narrow scope of enjoyment. In the eye of the BeHolden, doom metal must either be early Candlemass or be early Candlemass adjacent. Keep your stoner doom and your funeral doom, and give me Solitude Aeturnus, While Heaven Wept, and Crypt Sermon’s debut any day. 2019 saw the masters themselves release an album with mixed results, and while I enjoyed much of this year’s Crypt Sermon and found Atlantean Kodex and Fvneral Fvkk to be powerful platters of doom, Isole’s latest came closest to giving me that classic hopeless lovin’ feeling. But nothing could quite fill that cross-impaled horny horned skull shaped hole in my heart. Until I heard Capilla Ardiente’s The Siege, that is. Allow me to tell a tale of how the Chilean band has created 46 minutes stuffed with blasphemously heavy riffs, despair-inducing vocals sustainably sourced straight from the gallows end, and a rumbling bass presence that would make Lief Edling green with envy.

The emphasis on the bass isn’t surprising given that one of Capilla Ardiente’s founding members and primary songwriter is bassist Claudio Botarroa Neira (Procession). The Siege is hands down the most bass-centric album that I’ve encountered this year, and the execution makes it truly remarkable. Neira often breaks out from behind the guitars to drive the songs forward, and he uses several solo opportunities to build atmosphere and tension before Julio Borquez and Igor Leiva spring from under the oak with crushing riffs and classic metal melodies. Singer Felipe Plaza Kutzbach is the other standout performance. His lower register singing brings both Johan Längquist and Messiah Marcolin to mind at times, but I also hear a touch of Blaze Bayley—fitting, since the songs on The Siege have a dark, epic flair reminiscent of the best moments of Bayley-era Maiden. Kutzbach’s timbre is perfect for this collection of doom numbers, and his immense skill hasn’t gone unnoticed in the metal world. Not only has he recently been added as the live singer for British doom veterans Solstice, he’s also the bassist for Deströyer 666 and a guitarist in Nifelheim.

Things couldn’t begin more epically doomily metallicly than the guitar harmony that introduces “The Open Arms, the Open Wounds.” The monster bass then joins in as Kutzbach makes himself known briefly, and the track builds to a monstrous driving riff that sounds like it was pumped straight from the well of souls. But rather than settling for mere imitation, Borquez and Leiva litter their Candlemassian riffs with nifty little palm-muted licks and other hidden gems that reveal themselves on repeat listens. After the midpoint of “The Open Arms” we get our first taste of Neira’s solo abilities as he heralds the arrival of a regal vocal/riff mixture that recalls Iron Will-era Grand Magus. At over 13 minutes long, the track should bog down at some point, but it never does. The songwriting and commitment to the riff on The Siege is so compelling that while each dark reflection averages over 11 minutes, the whole affair feels like an ancient dream and I find myself bewitched from start to finish.

In a year loaded with high profile doom releases, I would have needed a crystal ball to predict that an unsung Chilean band would sit upon the gothic stone-hewn throne of doom. I may stand in solitude with that sentiment, but I offer a sorcerer’s pledge that epic doom fans will like, if not love what Capilla Ardiente have smuggled through the demons gate during The Siege. An unexpected find that’s sure to feature somewhere in nowhere on my year end list.

Dark Tunes from Beyond the Veils of Death to Check Out: Listen to all four, or your loved ones will sing the mourner’s lament.

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