Album Review: The Chant – “New Haven”
The Achilles heel of well-crafted atmospheric rock lies in its ability to numb the listener into passive inertia, absorbed within the hypnotic soundscapes and stylish overture. At least, that’s my excuse for this review being turned in a couple of months late and I’m sticking to it.
I confess, when this one arrived my initial reaction was humour. Had these long established Finnish rock-veterans really decided to pay tribute with their la decima release to the quaint Sussex seaside town of Newhaven? Well no, they hadn’t. Damn you space bar! And while it’s not like me to abandon a tenuous line of enquiry, in fairness this is a record deserving of a little more pragmatism.
Stoicism and probity lurk within the shadows on an album that seeks to elevate gloom-rock to mountainous new peaks. Earthen is our starter for ten, providing a basic template of cold reflection and baritone vocals that remains in place throughout. Although, there is a jagged, imposing, Alice in Chains style guitar hook here that’s heavier than elsewhere on the record.
Seven further tracks follow, although the fact only one falls short of the six minute mark should give a good indication of the progressive, aesthetic intentions on offer here. An album of punk standards or radio friendly unit shifters, this ain’t. What we do have is dark and, at times, mesmerising. Cloud Symmetry and Until We Witness are absorbing, dense arrangements with each of this septet entwined in acts of depth and catharsis.
In layman’s terms, it’s all reminiscent of the sort of stuff that in recent years has been appearing all over highbrow sci-fi cinema and ‘poetic’ trailers for first person shoot-em-ups. Music for mass destruction. Should you wish to get in contact with your inner Tom Cruise and stride heroically through an exploding cityscape in artistic slow-mo, well, whatever floats your longboat.
There remains however, a presence and profoundness to this record that can’t be easily dismissed with a summary one liner. The Chant share a landscape with Katatonia, Porcupine Tree, Tool and even latter-day Placebo, but stand remote and alone. A sound pervaded by the long, dark Finnish nights, that just often enough breaks into the optimism of a clean, crisp winter morning. One for fans of melancholic melodies, and of course, jobbing music hacks out to torment their sub-editors.