Review: Chevalier – Destiny Calls
Right now, there’s an unusual (but welcomed) sensory overload of good heavy metal, especially on Cruz del Sur Music and sub-label Gates of Hell Records. Most years see a dearth of great stuff; 2016 was an exception, and so far, 2019 has been as well. Unlikely many of the freshman bands blowing us away this year seemingly from nowhere (at least for me!), Finnish speed metal champions Chevalier debuted a couple of years ago with a fantastic thirty-two minute conceptual “EP” that was my favorite heavy metal release of 2017, and I’ve been highly anticipating their first official full length since then.
There’s no demo to improve upon, in my ears, or unrealized talent that I wanted to hear expanded to a proper release; Chevalier sprung upon the world already better than nearly anyone else making speed metal these days, and left upon themselves a mountain to clime in overcoming that first release. A Call To Arms was frantic and raw, a solo or cool bit of leadwork popping up nearly every time that a riff changed and with much better effect than weaker songwriters’ attempts at anything similar. The riffing was based mostly in classic French speed metal a la ADX as well as in the strange dungeon delving USPM of Brocas Helm or the earliest Liege Lord material, but it sounded like Chevalier, not like a portmanteau of the aforementioned groups.
Though Chevalier’s sound has not changed so much on Destiny Calls as to seem a different band, there’s an audible progression from the frenzied energy of A Call To Arms to the material presented here. Blazing speed metal has been tempered with an extra sense of Dark Quarterer’s grace, and the infusion of pounding Manilla Road-esque riffs and rhythms; by no coincidence, there’s a direct tribute to the sadly-deceased Mark Shelton in “Road of Light,” a powerful epic in its own right that serves as a send-off to one of the band’s influences. The speed metal is far from gone throughout the playtime of the album, and the leads and solos have also remained. However, both are tempered by an increased sense of dynamics, and the extra time that Chevalier gave themselves within each song lends itself to the flow and atmosphere that they aimed to achieve here.
Destiny Calls leaves an overall effect of epic speed metal majesty, full of unpredictable twists and turns that change constantly between the somber, the aggressive, and the uplifting. Emma’s vocals soar, Tommi and Mikko duel wonderfully as dual lead guitarists, Sebastian’s bass is one of the most powerful I’ve ever heard in heavy metal, and Joel’s assault on the skins carries the whole package perfectly. Well timed interludes and atmosphere-laden intros make the album feel cohesive in a way that most albums do not, and the lyrics are fun and compelling. Some things are not ideal, such as the rather raw production which sounds great on my speakers or headphones but is nigh-unlistenable on my car and which somewhat dulls the power of the guitars and drums in some sections, but overall the album is an incredible victory, a followup that soothes my fears of a disappointing coup de grace.
Saying that Destiny Calls is a clear win or loss to A Call To Arms does a bit of disservice to both. I normally don’t even like comparing releases of a band to each other, but in this case, I was excited enough going in that it feels almost tied into my impressions of the album, and thus must be shared. I was initially disappointed when listening to the new album by the loss of the raw energy that the debut possesses, but relistens convinced me that the increased maturity of the songwriting and the improved overall musicianship overcomes it. The production is in some ways far better – I can hear Emma a hell of a lot better, which suits well her improvement as a singer- but in some ways the rawness of the rehearsal room recording on the debut was in its own way magical. The guitars are a bit more quiet and sometimes hard to hear, but the bass has achieved a new level of power that perfectly suits the compositions. Really, both releases stand on their own merits, and I can’t recommend them enough; to even say that Chevalier is a band to be watched would be to ignore that you should already be listening to them if you care at all about new heavy metal, and I am firmly sold on anything they should choose to write and release going forward. As a final end note, I have to commend my Karmazid on his fantastic artwork for the album- he’s only gotten better over the years, and I can’t imagine Destiny Calls with another cover.