Review: Chevalier – A Call To Arms
Good raw speed metal has been popping up more and more in the last few years, but despite that, this is certainly one of the best of the bunch that I’ve heard in a long while. 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 “EP’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. Though the official word from the band calls it an EP, it’s a 30+ minute conceptual release, and even an interview says it’s something more. Regardless of what it is, it’s absolutely wonderful.
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. However, 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 spectacularly 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. It’s clear that every bit of the production, despite being rather lo-fi for this sort of release, is entirely intentional, something interviews with the band shed light on; even the vocalist’s place at the back of the mix is inspired directly by the mighty Brocas Helm, and the care that went into everything only adds to its power.
When this came out, I was totally blown away- not only by how fucking good it was, or at how out of nowhere it came, but at the fact that the only possible option to buy it was a digital download; in this author’s opinion, this piece of all-raw all-dirty masterpiece speed metal needs to at least be able to be heard on tape and vinyl, even if individual listeners choose to avoid the format. Months passed after I originally found the album and even a tape release was constantly pushed back. Finally, the original label for it was given up on (as far as I can tell) and Heavy Chains Records, the best Australian outlet for the true heavy metal sound, did a tape run alongside a CD run from French label Forgotten Wisdom Productions. Still, though, it seemed to me that Chevalier was being unfairly denied the support that even many lesser bands get- until the perfect pairing was announced, with Chevalier signing to the mighty Gates of Hell Records, a sublabel of the legendary Cruz del Sur Music. Finally, Chevalier has the support that they deserve, and in just a couple of weeks (as of the time of this writing), a vinyl release for A Call To Arms will be unleashed on the world. It may be a bit overdue, but I’m so glad that it’s here, and I’m really looking forward to getting my copy.