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Chalice Of Suffering : For You I Die

A worthy, if quite familiar-sounding, melodic Funeral debut from Chalice Of Suffering.

You may have been aware this was coming: Minneapolis-based Chalice Of Suffering have been quite savvy in generating pre-publicity, and I've certainly shared some news on the subject myself. To recap, if you missed it: this is the debut from a project headed by vocalist John McGovern, who describes it as "Funeral Doom with some atmosphere and has some sort of Celtic elements put in", and largely comprising members of other bands, notably Death Metal-based We Are Legion. Recording of 'For You I Die' started in early 2015, the album cover was revealed last September, and late April 2016 saw the digital launch and CD releases through Times End (USA) and GSP (Russia), with vinyl and cassette versions to follow.

So far, so thorough; and it's a thoroughness that also permeates the album's production. Though the musicians have contributed locally, from further afield Massachusetts, and (for the keyboards) Bulgaria, that's not at all obvious from the seamless arrangements, or the clear, well-polished and balanced mix. Nicely done, and as a sensible merchandising touch you can even get a T-shirt of the moodily Gothic-looking album cover to go with your CD.

With that sort of attention to detail on the logistics and packaging, you'd certainly hope it also extends to the music itself. And, once again, I suspect you wouldn't be disappointed - taste, obviously, allowing. 'For You I Die' sits somewhat on the genre borderline between Evoken's slow Death/Doom, and very European-feeling Shape Of Despair/ 'Firebox sound' Funeral Doom: an atmospheric and melodic landscape that should be quite familiar territory for most fans of either genre. The musicianship is spot-on: guitars and keyboards share the melody leads, working together much of the time to give a pleasantly layered body of sound backed by a sturdy - and reasonably, rather than excessively, ornamented - percussion section. Vocals come in two main flavours: quietly plaintive spoken narration, a little like Saturnus in places, or none-too-harsh, well-enunciated whispers and growls. Add in a few spot effects, some poetic Celtic declamation, and - more unusually - a featured tin flute and bagpipes and you have an idea of the Chalice Of Suffering armoury.

That's been deployed here over 70+ minutes of long tracks: aside from the solo bagpipe instrumental (the sub-three-minute 'Cumha Do Mag Shamhráin'), every track clocks in anywhere between 7 and 13 minutes. On the plus side, there's a fair bit of variety in tempo and direction spread between them, so the sizeable runtime doesn't drag excessively: it could be tightened just a little, with some in-track repetitions that end up marking time rather than going anywhere, but that would be more for a cumulative benefit across the whole album rather than because any individual tracks are crying out to be significantly trimmed. I'd exclude the introduction to 'Void' from that: I dislike cliched artificial scratched-vinyl crackle immensely to begin with, but most of the three minutes of sparse guitar it's vandalising seem a little superfluous anyway. That aside, though, the main journey unfolds with a practised and steady smoothness that plays to its melancholic and regretful strengths, taking in some obvious highlights like the oppressive despair of 'Darkness', the eerily-effective keyboards running through the title track, the pulsating, compelling finales of 'Alone' and 'Fallen' and the tragic farewell of 'Void's concluding section all stand out as highlight moments.

On the Celtic side of things - well, it's not so much an influence as a blatant and standalone inclusion. You won't find much of a lilt to general proceedings - there's a traditional bagpipe arrangement, and a (for some reason, vinyl-crackly) tin flute introduction to 'Fallen', neither particularly integrated into the flow of the album, or given any kind of 'doom' quality: they're just kind of...there... By comparison to the highly effective use of the Gaelic recital woven fully into the fabric of 'Fallen', these seem like a bit of an arbitrary inclusion for the sake of general 'Celticness' - though the bonus track separating them (a brief recital, over the sound of pouring rain) on the digipack version does put both in a better, slightly digressive, context.

Not that I'd view that any of the minor criticisms above as a big deal, one way or the other: they certainly don't significantly impact the easily-accessible pleasures of the rest of 'For You I Die'. Which are, bottom line, that for your money, you're getting a well-executed and tasteful variant of a theme that only really suffers from being a little over-familiar. If you've already explored the Firebox/Firedoom back catalogue and got your Remembrance and Colosseum (et al) collections in order, then you're probably not going to find too many surprises here. However, if you can't get enough of that kind of thing, or missed the first wave of practitioners, this could easily be a treasured addition to your collection. If not, well, it's still a worthy venture - especially for a debut - raising its standard in an already crowded field of banners.

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Darkness
2. Who Will Cry
3. For You I Die
4. Alone
5. Screams Of Silence
6. Cumha Do Mag Shamhráin
Fade Away (Bonus track on GSP version only)
7. Fallen
8. Void

Duration : Approx. 72 minutes

Visit the Chalice Of Suffering bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-07-03 by Mike Liassides
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