Chapel of Disease
Summoning Black Gods
I am not sure what sure what inspired Chapel of Disease’s moniker, but when I saw the promo for the band’s album Summoning Black Gods in my email, I immediately thought of “Chapel of Ghouls”. Hoping for a musical Morbid Angel connection I downloaded eagerly. This German group, in fact, sounds little like Morbid Angel, but other late mid-to-late eighties death metal influences are certainly present. Early Death and Possessed are suitable points of reference, but, thankfully, Chapel of Disease does an admirable job of carving out its own sound from in a well-established style.
Part of what makes Summoning Black Gods interesting is the things it lacks. The drumming for instance is, for death metal, minimalist: no blast beats, no double bass, and not a whole hell of a lot else going on. Drummer David Dankert keeps time and manages the groove solidly, but seems content with a supporting role. The production is a no-frills affair as well; the album sounds good, but this is due to the quality of the raw performances, rather than after-the-fact enhancements. Furthermore, tremolo-picking, that staple of death metal composition is -- while not as scarce as blast beats -- in rather short supply on Summoning Black Gods. Without a barrage of triggered drums to lay down covering fire, a slick production to make everything sound perfect, and largely eschewing a compositional staple, Chapel of Disease’s songs have to live or die on the quality of their riffs and arrangements. I am happy to report they don’t just live, they thrive.
Having established what not to expect on Summoning Black Gods, let us turn the focus to some of the things one can expect from this album, one of which is thrash, or perhaps more acurately: THRRRAAAASH! Summoning Black Gods is, in fact, almost as much a thrash metal album as a death metal album. “Exili’s Heritage” is perhaps the most overt example of this, with its Pleasure to Kill-like savagery, but just about any time a song calls for speed, Chapel of Disease’s German heritage shows through with a thrash break that would do Sodom and Kreator proud.
Thrash is not the only area in which Chapel of Disease excels; Summoning Black Gods is riddled with great riffs in all shapes and sizes: “Descend to the Tomb” features a dirge-like main theme reminiscent of Bolt Thrower; “The Loved Dead”, with its growling, bent-note trudge, recalls “Procreation of the Wicked”; and “Dead Sphere” features a sick, sliding groove of indeterminate inspiration, but my best guess is Satan.
Though Summoning Black Gods is bursting with devastating riffs, it is Chapel of Disease's ability to string these riffs together in a compelling fashion that is its greatest talent. The way the band slams on the brakes mid-solo in “Descend to the Tomb” and then winds back up to explode into the aforementioned Bolt Thrower-esque main theme is a deft feat of songwriting gymnastics. And the closing sequence in “Evocation of the Father”, wherein the group evolves a twin-guitar melody from haunted cry to anguished scream then follows with a cathartic solo and regal, melodic coda, is burned into my memory for eternity.
There have been hundreds of retro-death metal acts to come out since Bloodbath opened the gates over a decade ago, but so very few, enjoyable though they may be, make music that is more than a good but ultimately forgetable imitation. Chapel of Disease makes music that I give a shit about for more than the forty-five minutes it takes to listen to Summoning Black Gods, and that is a rare and cherished thing.