I’m a firm believer that there’s a time and place for doom metal. For some, it’s the colder, darker months that call on the doomy stuff. For others, it’s a calm evening, lounging on the living room floor with your trusty bong. For me, doom is for those gloomy nights when my mind turns dark. When I’m depressed, I dive into doom metal like it’s jacuzzi tub. There’s no way to avoid it. Good doom drags me down to the deepest crevices of my mind and, before I know it, it’s 3 am and I have to be up at 5 for work. The better the record, the more intense the feeling. I bring this up because there are many around here that feel there’s never a time or a place for doom metal. That being said, I can’t say Destroyer of Light ever took me on that trip to hell. Until now.
As discussed in my 2015 Endsville review, these Austin natives have gotten better with every release. But nothing of theirs has quite caught my attention like Chamber of Horrors. Without a doubt, this year’s new release is the band’s best. The vocals are better, the production is better, the songwriting is better, and the album has a flow never before achieved by DoL. There’re groovy pieces, melodic beauties, and soothing instrumentals; chugs, chunks, dooms, glooms, and drones; and vocals that explore doom’s gruff style as well as its haunting, reverberating Ozzy, Wino, Bobby Liebling stylings. On the surface, it’s simple. And, deep down it’s simple. But, simple is the game and simple is good.
One thing longtime fans will notice on Chamber of Horrors is the song lengths. Not a one of the six tracks from 2012’s Destroyer of Light exceeded seven minutes. But, that’s not the case with Chamber of Horrors. Most of its seven tracks average over six minutes and the closer, “Buried Alive,” maxes out at ten full minutes. Now, don’t go running off just yet. The band has spent years working up to this and the lengthier tracks are the album highlights. Just the same, the closer’s marathon of mood swings, riff changes, guitar feedback, and brooding vocal performances (that include some rare death metal growls) aren’t my favorite. But the seven-minute “The Virgin” is. Taken from their debut album, this restructured track is now almost twice as long and definitely twice as good. The original was sinister but never quite stuck, but Chamber of Horrors fixed that. It takes all the shortcomings of the original and strips them away, leaving an unrestricted doomy builder to do what it does best: build. And, in the process, the song uses everything from low growls and high falsettos to blood-curdling screams to maximum effect.
But the bulk of the album consists of songs alternating between simple, yet memorable, riffs and melodies soaked in Texas tea. “Into the Smoke” comes roaring out of the doom-tastic instrumental opener (“Whispers into the Threshold”) with ballsy cleans and beefy riffs. After traversing through some winding guitar leads that rise and fall through a murky surface, the song dives headfirst into gloomy melodies. In this transition, the Wino-like vocals soar overhead and the mood becomes one of utter hopelessness. The other two tracks follow the same recipe, but where “Lux Crusher” has an aggressiveness like that of the debut record’s “Coffin Hunter,” “Prisoner of Eternity” uses beauty—diving deep into clean guitars, heavy chugs, and an emotional groove. Vocalist Colca gives some of his best vocal performances in these latter two, using his Ozzy-meets-Wino highs to bury me forever as a “Prisoner of Eternity.”
But, it’s the simple three-minute instrumental “Twilight Procession” that pins this all together. The beautiful mid-album intermission fills the void between all the heaviness. It’s the kind of soothing piece that could have just as easily been the album closer. Regardless, it does its job: dragging me deeper into the dark imagery of that artwork at the top of the page. Chamber of Horrors is a dark place, yet one that I don’t mind visiting and relaxing in. So, clock out, hop on a train for the dark mountains looming above, and book an Airbnb into the Chamber of Horrors.