With a name like CHVRCHES, a cover reminiscent of Candlemass and a title that sounds like a Trouble record, we’re clearly not going to be hearing new ground being broken here.
But Sacramento, California based Chrch, who have just signed to Neurot Recordings, have one thing on their side: self belief.
According to the press release, “Standing at a crossroads of light and dark, Chrch create epic, lengthy songs, with a massive low end, and a supernatural vocal presence, in a perfect blend of height and depth.
Chrch has been hard at work crafting their particular sound since 2013. There is no image or gimmick to uphold, only the humble glorification of their fundamental musical elements.”
That last sentence is the one that should jump out at anyone.
And for good reason: there are two ways to interpret that.
Either the band are proud of the fact that they have little in the way of ideas with their music, or they’re so good at what they do, they don’t need any other ideas.
For the latter, this means that your musical ability and songwriting has to be above and beyond what is the norm for most underground band.
And, truthfully, Chrch do demonstrate this throughout this LP. Maybe not enough to qualify it as an astonishing record, but enough to make the listener sit up and pay attention.
‘Infinite’ begins as a kind of post rock take on doom, with a heavily flanged and echoed riff.
It’s atmospheric enough to be an Amebix riff, and sinister enough to be a Candlemass riff. The drums sit in the background for the first few minutes, making noises but not driving the music, creating a noise competing for the listener’s attention.
Vocalist Eva Rose initially offers up haunting melodies before upping the aggression as the distortion kicks in and the drums sync up with the riff. When the differing elements come together, it is genuinely glorious.
They’ve teased the listener by building up proceedings for five minutes, and the pay off is more than worth the effort.
At twenty one minutes, it’s a testimony to the band’s songwriting that the attention never waivers. It goes with each climax and come down, while being blown away by the power of the musicianship on display.
No wonder the band felt confident enough to put that line in their press release.
‘Portals’, by contrast, goes straight for the jugular and doesn’t let go for the next fifteen minutes.
It’s straight up doom, lurching between midtempo and a crawling pace. Once again, there’s power behind the riff, but little in the way of surprise the way there was with ‘Infinite.’
The alternating female and male vocals portray a feeling of resignation in different ways through Rose’s eeriness and guitarist/vocalist Chris Lemos’ doomed acceptance.
Enjoyable, but maybe could have done with some more vocal interplay to really create an atmosphere of despair.
‘Aether’ tries to combine elements of both tracks and falls flat towards the end, due to dropping the doom and going black metal.
It could have worked, but here it jars when the two styles are combined.
Three tracks, 46 minutes long. Doesn’t overstay it’s welcome They could maybe do with refining the post rock / doom angle into something much more grandiose (the way Nomadic Rituals have in recent years as an example), but it’s safe to conclude that this is a solid, and at times remarkable, underground album.
One that will soundtrack the summer evenings as you head home from work, wondering when it will all end.
3.5 / 5 – Christopher Owens ::: 01/05/18