The Chant // A Healing Place
Rating: 3.0/5.0 – Pleasant post-metal
Label: Lifeforce Records
Websites: thechant.net | facebook.com/thechant
Release Dates: NA: 08.14.2012 | EU: 2012.08.17/20 | SCAND: 2012.08.22
Finland’s penchant for downy frowny metal is pretty well known. Sporting doom, melodeath and atmospheric black metal acts the like of Swallow the Sun, Insomnium and October Falls and being known for long, dark, vodka-soaked, winters speckled with knife fights and rumors of sunlight somewhere south, it’s actually a surprise that Finland hasn’t produced a lot more music consisting of both downies and frownies. Indeed, post-metallers The Chant are really the first Finnish band I’ve heard in their particular idiom. What is their particular idiom, you ask? Well, you know, the kind of music you write when the sun hasn’t risen for a three months: depressive post-rock.
A Healing Place is a much cheerier name than the music contained within, however. Atmospheric dirges pushing 6 to 8 minutes make up the majority of the record – with a single exception, the 4 minute “Ocean Speaks,” which is easily the fastest track on the record. But this ain’t doom. Instead, the songs are much more akin to A Fine Day to Exit Anathema or Porcupine Tree around In Absentia; it’s more Marillion or post-Floyd prog. This style, then, lends itself to a lot of weight being put on the melodic structures and the voice of the lead singer, and it follows then that this is where the band would be the strongest – vocalist Ilpo Paasela sings well, with a familiar Finnish accent (“Reever”) and a baritone that never tries to escape his range. Instead, he floats over the atmospheric grooves, taking up whatever place is left for him.
And you’d be surprised at how much place there is, given that there are three guitars, bass, keyboards and drums. To be honest, I was surprised to read that there are three guitarists in this band, because it is not audible on the recording. While the guitars are neat – but minimalistic – never does the band push the boundaries of what a band like Katatonia or Gazpacho are doing with two guitars. That said, I really do enjoy the texturing the band does – with good fat bass that anchors the ethereal guitars to the ground with weight and undeniable presence. When these pieces come together with Paasela’s vocals and Jämbäck’s keyboards, the restful, floating feel of the music can be surprisingly gripping. The long build at the end of “The Black Corner” is one such song and the Peter Lundgren-esque melodic guitar parts in “Distant Drums” are two such moments.
The real drawback with The Chant is the old, tried-but-true critique of “I’ve heard this before.” And while sometimes bands really just nail a sound so hard, or write such beautiful and convincing melodies that you can get over that – The Chant does not comport themselves with this level of mastery. While they’re head and shoulders above hangers-on like Votum, A Healing Place is a bit like a chameleon that never shows its own, true colors. This isn’t a problem on the really good songs like “Riverbed,” “Regret” (Ilpo sounds just like Danny Cavanagh, though) or “The Black Corner,” it means that the filler becomes largely skippable – or worse – one starts to zone out and forget where one is in the album. It becomes background music.
Still, these kind of records have a way on growing on me. Sometimes getting to know the ins-and-outs is a process in itself with this kind of album which is more about subtlety than virtuosity. A Healing Place has all sorts of potential written all over it, with its morose melodies and ethereal feel. If you’re a fan of post-rock or the aforementioned reference points, it’s worth giving this record a chance. It’s a good album – but only time will tell these guys can really separate themselves from the pack.