There’s a constant glut of death metal on the market coming in all shapes and sizes. Chapel of Disease‘s particular brand of death metal has been well and truly re-branded. Once paying homage to the old school tones of the late 80s and early 90s, Chapel of Disease have now re-painted the death metal machine with tones straight from the 70s. Once a rigid, sharp and vicious vehicle – no frills, no forgiveness – Chapel now float at a listener with a lucid, fluid and wavering touch, decorating their tank with psychedelic patterns and peace symbols. And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye attempts to merge traditional death metal with the free-form musical approaches of the 70s: hard rock and progressive rock. This is a record that certainly stands out from the crowd.
Does it stand out for the right reasons? And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye has had a peculiar affect on me. As if in a feverish mutable state sometimes it filters through my headphones with a smooth and seductive touch; at others it smothers my brain like an archaic rotten fart, lingering but not welcome. Straight away it’s clear that Chapel of Disease are more than happy to dwell in the realm of high pitched melody. Noodling, loose, wishy-washy: the guitar-led approach of And as We Have Seen diverges from the well-trodden routes of death metal. Songs can seem formless, improvisational even. Of course this is not the case, but the long song lengths and strings of riffs that build and cascade river-like have the effect of an impromptu jam in a smoky studio. Opener “Void of Words” is indicative of the album as a whole. Luscious and tender licks with a sickeningly melodic sheen open the record. Then, like a psychedelic war horse, a mixture of galloping death metal with adornments in the form of rapid blues licks and soloing carries the song forward. Escapades into pure 70s (with no death metal in sight) are also common, especially during the closing minutes of “Void of Worlds” where the galloping war horse transforms into a creature more suited for dressage or a summer fayre.
Death metal is less prominent but it hasn’t disappeared completely. Gruff, unpolished growls à la Karl Willets and Martin van Drunen crash violently into the soft pulse at the record’s core. The occasional sharp, down-tuned passage of riffs breaks through the softness too, but for the most part there’s a lack of downright aggression, a lack of bite and ferocity. Chapel of Disease find other ways to present their madness. When holding closer to death metal, And as We Have Seen is – in my mind – more successful. Second track “Oblivious – Obnoxious – Defiant” is more conventional and self-contained. An alternating verse-chorus with more of a focus on crustier, lower-pitched riffing gives the song a direction and focus which the record as a whole desperately needs.
“Song of the Gods” is similar too, but it has a catchier and much more playful tone which supplements the frenzied riffing at the song’s core. The blithe, jam-like interludes and passages spin-off from these heavier moments much more naturally. They are grounded and given weight. This is most successfully implemented in “Null” which, riff-wise, leans closer to black metal at times. The atmosphere is thick and heavy and the riffs spin off from one another and cloud the mix. When the lightness of the soloing breaks through it’s satisfyingly merged with the darkness of the track.
For the most part And as We Have Seen melts into one. It meanders, twists, turns, before, sometimes, reaching a satisfying conclusion. Now I understand that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination but for me the journey lacks truly exciting sights to keep the energy flowing, especially towards the back-end of the record. “1000 Different Paths” and “The Sound of Shallow Grey” are sloppy and unfocused, failing to unite their many electronic, extreme and progressive elements. I don’t dislike And as We Have Seen but I feel conflicted. It’s confused. Chapel of Disease seem to be in a transition period, not quite fully free of their death metal skin. There are real standout moments here that emerge when listening to the record as a 70s hard rock/prog fan, but from an extreme metal perspective there isn’t enough meaty substance here to keep me nourished.