Enter the Enon Chapel
What would black metal have sounded like in Victorian Era London?
No idea. And after absorbing Enon Chapel‘s debut self-titled EP of “Victorian Era London-Inspired black metal”, I still have no idea. Nothing about the band particularly screams Victorian. No Victrola™ EQ, no tophats, no corsets. Perhaps the lyrics would provide a clue if they were available. Maybe the song titles do? I don’t know — I’m not a big consumer of Victorian culture.
None of that matters anyway, because this EP kicks dark butt. As stated above, Enon Chapel is nominally a black metal band. The production is certainly abysmal enough to zone them in that neighborhood, as are the streptococcus-throated snarls and the malevolent high-end fret work. And yet I’m hearing a ton of old school death metal in the mix. Maybe it’s the amount of time the drummer spends in bone-crunching d-beat mode, or the fact that the bass drum thuds quite highly in the mix. It’s probably the oblate heft to the riffs, which chug as often as they trem, and have that nice cyclical feel purveyed by the masters of death metal’s old school. It’s definitely the overall vibe of plague and rot shining through the dry, hoary mix.
Whatever the case, Enon Chapel is never content just to preach to the black metal choir. They even drop into some good old four-on-the-flour cloak ‘n’ roll* from time to time, channeling the spirits of latterday Satyricon or even Carcass through a crystal ball that has never been washed. Aside from the creepy synth instrumental of “Eldrich” and the moody synth outro to final track “The Unscrupulous Reverend Howse”, there’s no fluff here. Each song unfolds in a lean five minutes or less, cycling economically from one riff to the next. No time to waste building atmosphere; we’ve got graves to rob and streetwalkers to slash. (Those are Victorian references, right?)
I feel like I heard a lot of bands coming from the death metal end of the spectrum attempting something similar to this last year. None of them nailed it. Must be the solid foundation in the aesthetics of black metal that gives Enon Chapel the edge. They use no studio- or effects-driven tricks to set a mood. The mood is right there in the squirming lead melodies and pestilence-breathing solos.
At six tracks, this thing is a bit long for an EP. Best to think of it as a full length LP from which all the fat has been hacked off and thrown to the dogs. Not the most original thing you’ll ever hear, but delivered with enough charisma to put Enon Chapel on the list of bands to watch. As fellow Toilet scribe Hans so recently pointed out, the drought of good black metal in 2018 is yielding to unexpected fecundity this year — and it is only fucking February. Satan help us.
The Enon Chapel EP was released on February 1st by Acephale Winter Productions. Available in cassette and digital formats.
*Between Leif, Hans and me, cloak ‘n’ roll is going to be an Official Thing® by the end of 2019.