Chapters, the London based tech-metallers, formed way back in 2009 but have wisely taken the long route to producing a debut album, opting to hone their considerable skills on the road before unleashing an album. The band’s patience has more than paid off because ‘the imperial skies’ is one hell of an impressive slab of brutal, progressive-rock tinged death metal. Indeed, so eclectic and impressive is this seven-track beast that it’s hard to know where to start with this review. Cut from the same cloth as bands like Death, Sylosis and Cynic, what is certain is that Chapters have produced a monumental debut cementing their position as a band of note in the British metal scene.
It’s hard to believe, but if you were to compare explosive opener ‘I will reign forever’ to anything, it would be to Arch Enemy covering Queen’s ‘innuendo’! As the song opens, it’s pure death metal – furious riffs, raging screams and skull-crushing percussion, but then things get weird. The song roams roughshod across death metal territory taking in riffs that need a calculator to work your way around, rough-hewn melodies and, eventually, an unhinged and hugely enjoyable excursion into flamenco guitar. It’s unexpected, expertly done and impressively imaginative in an era where most bands prefer to play it depressingly safe. It’s hard to imagine a more effective opening and the band temper their brutality with eclecticism perfectly. ‘The siren’ pairs a strong sense of melody with some exceptionally punishing riffs and harrowing screams to powerful effect. A titanic thrash workout, ‘March of the puritan’ builds upon a scything riff and overlays it with rapid-fire screams that tear out of the speakers like rabid dogs. It gives a fair impression of the band’s live intensity and the production captures the whole thing with enviable clarity. At six minutes the song explores the gamut of the band’s myriad influences, with mesmerising clean passages and blistering solos making brief but imaginative appearances. The song segues into the short, beautiful ‘Arising’ which forms the perfect bridge to album highlight ‘The ecliptic circle’.
With many extreme bands the first album is an excuse to unleash primal hell with the desire to experiment coming later in the career. It is a testament to both the courage and imagination of Chapters that they included the stunning ‘The ecliptic circle’ on their debut. With a strong hint of Anathema, the song benefits from the gorgeous vocal of Sian Sanderson only for the furious, frenetic ‘The imperial Skies’ to provide the devastating payoff. The triptych sits at the heart of the album and demonstrates the band’s maturity and versatility and you have to keep reminding yourself that this is the band’s debut album. The album closes, far too quickly, with ‘Chapters’, adhering neatly to the adage that you should always leave them wanting more. At eight minutes, ‘Chapters’ offers the band another chance to explore their wide range of influences, an opportunity the band grasp eagerly, attacking the track as if it’s a venomous animal in need of putting down. With throat-ripping screams, finger-shredding solos and a healthy dose of memorable melody.
Over the course of some thirty-five minutes Chapters repeatedly demonstrate an intrinsic grasp of technical death metal, their stunning musicianship and inventive song-writing never failing to impress. This, coupled with the stunning production leaves the listener in no doubt that the band are a force to be reckoned with. Clearly the band benefitted from spending the time to hone their craft to a razor point and the result is ‘the imperial skies’, a devastating and furiously entertaining album. Don’t miss out on Chapters – they’re set for bigger things.