Chevalier – A Call To Arms

Good raw speed metal  has been popping up more and more in the last few years, but this is certainly one of the best of the bunch that I’ve heard recently. Chevalier hearken back to many of my favorite classic USPM and international (particularly French) speed metal bands while forging their own sound entirely with big melodies, fast rhythms (with a few slower points that just make the rest of A Call To Arms hit that much harder), and a constant pounding drum beat in the background. Recorded in a rehearsal room, the “demo’s” lack of polish is stunningly charming, and makes for an interesting offset to the tightness of the entire performances, and speaks very, very deeply to my taste in heavy and speed metal.

This is a real guitarist’s album to me, with every song being chock full of tight solos that come in and out of the performance, popping up and then vanishing just as quickly, and with unexpected leads coming in and out of the rhythms constantly. Sometimes everything but the guitars drop out entirely, leaving only powerful and consciously medieval sounding leads to enrapture listeners, and every careful listen reveals new guitar parts that I missed on the previous listen. Despite the central focus on guitarwork, other aspects are far from ignored- the drumming is extremely competent, and the bass is audible and well done. There are some fantastic grooves where the two lock in together to great effect, and vocalist Emma Grönqvist fills everything out wonderfully from her place at the backseat of the recording; the choice to keep her mixed somewhat to the bottom of the mix both makes for a really cool effect and keeps her from overwhelming the absolutely fantastic riffing that makes the release so damn cool. There really aren’t any choruses in the traditional sense of the word, and that’s also a cool point to me- the whole thing is a showcase of unrelenting, uncompromising prowess, a love letter to speed metal and to heavy metal that gives me the shivers. I’m very much looking forward to more material, and hoping that the band’s plan of releasing the demo on vinyl at some point is realized. Until then, I’ll wait eagerly for the tape version to come out.

Listen and buy

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Review: Fetid – Sentient Pile of Amorphous Rot

Washington’s Fetid has sprung out of nowhere, fully formed and ready to bash in heads- or at least, that’s how it must seem to people that aren’t aware that Fetid enjoyed a previous existence as Of Corpse. Disgusting and lo-fi churning death metal played with the sensitivity of a caveman, Sentient Pile of Amorphous Rot rips, grooves,  and chugs through four massive songs that don’t let up through the entire playtime of the demo. The band’s name, the demo’s title, and even each of the songs evokes in their names the general purpose of Fetid: to drown listeners in horror, rot, and the eternal decay of the foul, heartless grave.

Captivating from the very start, the riffs are pummeling, sometimes grinding, and are consistently memorable. Jumping between various takes on many of the same lurching verse riffs, tempo changes are frequent through the course of the demo, and never leave the listener time to get comfortable at any particular speed (though there’s a certain speed and style to each of the changes that is repeated through the demo). Ripping sections of grinding death return to constantly pummeling groovy sections, and each are regularly offset by sections of doom and gloom that hark back to the stylings of massive ancient death metal like Autopsy or Rottrevore. The vocals gurgle at the bottom of the mix without much variety, providing atmosphere by way of rhythmic assault rather than ever attempting to jump over the riffs; given the styling of the rest of the demo, they suit the music perfectly. The low end is absolutely massive, and the drumming is extremely competent, never overwhelming the music but often filling out the sound with quick flourishes and tasteful fills.

The production is another highlight, as it’s properly raw and old school sounding (as it should be, being that it was recorded analog to a four-track) without sacrificing clarity or power; in particular, I’m impressed with how well the drums pop out without overpowering anything else, given how hard it is for bands to get good drum recordings at all, let alone on their own on their own tape deck.

Despite being firmly entrenched in the stylings of the bygone glory of the death metal scene of the early ’90s, and being easily comparable at certain sections to many of the bands from the time period, Fetid have their own identity, and I’m certainly looking forward to hearing more from them.

Get a tape from Headsplit Records while they last, and check out the demo on YouTube.

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Image Source: http://headsplitrecords.storenvy.com/products/19490224-fetid-sentient-pile-of-amorphous-rot