Chalice – “Trembling Crown” (High Roller Records)
Battle Helm Rating
I’ve gotta hand it to Chalice, formed only 3 years ago and in that space issuing a demo and an EP, they now release this incredible full-length debut. There’s not a lot of info about this Finnish quartet, but one thing is clear: these guys can play! Going well beyond conventional trends to roll in 70s classic rock inspirations into their modern epic heavy metal, the 7 tracks on “Trembling Crown” range from standard 4-minute pieces to 9-minute quests, all the while comfortably rolling in Spanish guitars, space age sounds and even spoken word narrations to make the music all the more wonderous. Opening with ‘Night’s Hands’, the deep melodies cut into you immediately from the twin guitars of vocalist Verneri Benjamin Pouttu (ex-Damnations Pride, ex-Ranger, ex-Deathraiser, ex-Swallowed) and Mikael Cristian Haavisto (Necrolepsy, ex-Ranger), who also plays keyboards, as the stirring epic passion builds through their incredible axe work using alternating tempos, atmospheres and bountiful, award winning guitar god solos – wow! Continuing their orgasmic fretboard work on the title track ‘Trembling Crown’, the fast riffs add to the exciting contrast of the flowing hard rock melodies and the 70s vibe of this song, as do the unexpected flamenco guitars in building to absolutely monumental soloing making it clear that Pouttu and Haavisto want to leave nothing to anyone’s doubts as to their technical mastery on show here. Taken into a darker realm on ‘Hunger Of The Depth’, somber clanging melodies blend with Joni Adrian Petander’s (Satan’s Fall) rolling basslines as the clash between Pouttu’s biting vocals and the soothing backing harmonies is as stark as the doom power riffs with melancholic violins in building the mournful sadness capped off brilliantly by Olli Tönönen’s excellent percussion. It’s all very ambitious, and while the nit-picky will be swift in pointing out the flaws on “Trembling Crown”, I prefer to commend Chalice unreservedly for their superb musicianship in realising their creative dream here. If it wasn’t for cutting edge bands like them, the world would’ve long been rid of its menace of heavy metal!