Self-proclaimed “atmospheric” rockers The Chant have come a long way since their formation in 1999. After spending much of the first decade of the new millennium sporadically cutting demos, the band finally achieved a modicum of success in their native Finland in 2008 with debut album “Ghostlines”. 2010’s “This Is The World We Know” built on the melancholic quiet-loud-quiet template of its predecessor but felt like the work of a journeyman band still learning their art.
After another two years spent hard at work, The Chant have emerged like a butterfly from a cocoon with “A Healing Place”, undoubtedly their finest work to date and one that richly deserves recognition on the international stage.
“A Healing Place” adroitly straddles the No Man’s Land between rock and metal. As with earlier releases, The Chant’s core sound remains close to the alternative rock of A Perfect Circle, Breaking Benjamin and Chevelle with a few twists from the heavier end of the spectrum, including screamed backing vocals, extended song durations and the occasional dalliance with dense, chugging riffs. However, the new record sees the band revisit previously fringe influences, most notably gothic metal and shoegaze, to great effect. Fans of post-doom/death Katatonia and Anathema will find much to enjoy here.
In the two years they’ve been away, The Chant have developed significantly as musicians and songwriters; “A Healing Place” feels like their most cohesive and complete album yet. Singer Ilpo Paasela’s vocal performance is a considerable step up from “This Is The World We Know”, where he was prone to trip over English language lyrics and sound out of breath. Here he is channelling the spirit of both Tool’s Maynard James Keenan and Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse and sounds so much the better for it. Elsewhere, drums and bass lock together more tightly than ever before while keyboards and guitars lay down more tightly crafted and intricate arrangements amidst the atmospheric wall of sound.
Production is also greatly improved. The band recorded most of the instruments themselves before drafting in the professionals for the drum tracking, mixing and mastering. As a result, “A Healing Place” sounds organic and atmospheric but also very tight and polished, without ever feeling overproduced. These changes are most evident on “Distant Drums”, an expertly crafted six and a half minute roller coaster ride that moves from slow melancholic build-up to cathartic release and is quite possibly the album’s highlight. “Ocean Sparks” is similarly outstanding, although much more straightforward in its delivery.
Unfortunately, there are a few niggles that hold “A Healing Place” back from true greatness. Entirely unnecessary saxophone solos add nothing to “Outlines” and “Distant Drums” and should have been left on the cutting room floor. Other tracks simply go on too long or peter out unexpectedly. “The Black Corner” spends eight minutes fleshing out a very catchy main hook into an undulating beast of a song before throwing it away at the last by failing to deliver the coup de grace after one final climactic build up. It feels like a waste but considering the vast improvement over “This Is The World We Know”, it’s perhaps a little unfair to pull the band up on this when they have gotten so much else right.
“A Healing Place” is the sound of a band finally hitting their stride. While not perfect, it’s nevertheless a highly accomplished album; instantly gratifying yet with enough depth that you’ll find yourself listening to it again and again. The Chant have waited thirteen long years to break out to an international audience and it would be verging on criminal if “A Healing Place” isn’t the record that allows them to achieve this at last.