Depression.. A creaky see saw with a medical condition at one end and a mild change of mood that you slip in and out of, at the other. Nobody stays in the same position for long but some slide to the opposite end quite so easily. While Prozac and its cousins might push you in to the eye of the storm and offer temporary relief, no chemical ensures a flower-laden alley to a ‘brighter’ outside. Escape from it has always had alternatives but most important of all has been mutual interaction and the parting of sorrow that accompanies it. This ideal probably ascribes to the very existence of depressive undercurrents in music from time immemorial. Sharing it with someone, be that a person or something as metaphysical in concept as music. In effect tacitly approving of the development of whole subgenres around themes that might seem somber and equally unsettling to those people ‘outside looking in’(non-affected) while becoming shared sorrow to the ones ‘inside looking out’.
These undercurrents are probably the very ones that gave rise to the strain of doom in metal. Now this brings us to the album in question, New Haven by the Finnish sextet The Chant. As far as their music and the kind of doom laden atmosphere that they employ, goes, you’d find them more in common with latter day Katatonia and Judgement/Alternative 4 era Anathema (and even some of their latest releases). One could say that it is definitely the most accessible side of the genre and more atmospheric rock than anything hardbound metal. Then again, there is a surfeit of bands that dwell within the walls of the genre, building up their contrived moods of despair, only to sound nothing but too conspicuous of their plebian outputs. But The Chant, just like their peers and fellow countrymen Hanging Garden (with a remarkably similar sound), place and hit at all the right wedges, cracking open our shields that are in place to ward off boring material. The all pervasive melancholy that seems to grow on Finnish soil extends and entangles its despair daubed tentacles around us.
With vocals that sound extremely similar to Vincent Cavanagh, Anathema might be a constant reference point and yet with tracks like the opener ‘Earthen’ armed with an infectious riff that serves as a constant motif in the song is something that Anathema might never be able to pull off. It’s the ringing of the riff well after the song has ended that makes you go for the ‘play’ button, again. Tracks titled ‘Minotaur’ but ironically one of the more morose and strongest on the album, the slightly upbeat Cloud Symmetry are what keep repetition at bay. Now there is always a risk of sounding the same in several songs, one problem that they cannot seem to let go off. But for me all the slight nuances seemed apparent with successive listens. Their previous output The Healing Place – which was indeed my first listen – was a decent release but it quite failed to elicit a reaction that further elicits a cause to re-listen. I was rather quick to shelve it and give the last record from In The Silence a better spin in 2012.
New Haven is an aligning of the band’s skills that gifts it with a staying power like none of their previous forays. You could describe it as a potent seed of everlasting despair that when sprouts, release a miasma of submissiveness that the listener will succumb to, and yet revel in. Embrace this pall of gloom..