Day 17 of the #mayvinylchallenge asks us to imagine if the Pandemic was a record, what record would it be? The best response I saw was this one, so I’ll take the more common road and use the opportunity to talk about a record whose name has at least a passing connection to Our Year(s) of COVID. I wasn’t familiar with Chapel of Disease before the release of their 2018 record ...And As We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye, but their unique take on progressive death metal immediately hooked me and helped to further clarify what it is I really look for when it comes to my “favorite” metal albums.
What Chapel of Disease really do is blend old school death metal with 70s prog, hard rock, and a super clear and robust production that lets you enjoy all the intricacies of their songwriting style, from rocking guitar-worship licks and solos to, well…rocking guitar-worship licks and solos. Their case is clearly stated on ...And As We have See the Storm’s… opening track, “Void of Words.” When I originally wrote about the record for Nine Circles I was focused on the stellar late solo that really feels ripped from a Dire Straits record. But additional listens brought all the great guitar work out, from the 70s hard rock licks in the verses to the clean middle section that takes things down a notch before resuming full throttle metal. “Oblivious / Obnoxious / Defiant” opens with the kind of epic power metal intro you’d expect from Iron Maiden or any of their 1,001 clones. But then it moves into pure death metal, the percussion driving the riffs into murkier waters.
Chapel of Disease’s focus on hard rock riffs provide that hook that allows me to hang into the songs – whether it’s the blues riff on “Song of the Gods” in between the more rapid fire compressed death metal sections or the old school metal songwriting on “1,000 Different Paths.” Maybe it’s how the pandemic and quarantine have affected me, but I find myself retreating more and more into the music that I grew up with – music that had plenty of solos, hooks, and great production. I understand the personal choice involved in the wall of sound and muffled mix that bands like Panopticon insist upon; hell, I’ve even talked about how part of my love for black metal came from listening hard enough to note the melodies and arrangement bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone seemed almost ashamed of on their earlier albums. But as I get older and get more anxious over what life will be like moving forward, I want my music, and my metal, to give me a wide open sonic landscape where folks are unafraid to let loose and dork it out with harmonies, solos, and riffs straight out of the NWOBHM.
And if you can do all that snd still nail the extreme side like Chapel of Disease can? Then you’ve got me for life.