Review Summary: May the dark lord rise and make me his sacrifice!
For a little back story, The Wounded Kings formed in 2005 and originated from Dartmoor, England. In the Chapel of the Black Hand is their third full length album, and first album featuring female vocalist, Sharie Neyland. I am sure many people were unsure of the sound of the band without the powerful vocals of George Birch, but with the end result, they change was far from disappointing. Within the past few years, we have seen a rise of female vocalist in the genre of doom, occult rock, and metal in general, and these women add an element of uniqueness, mystique, and power to the genre of doom. And this album is a perfect example of that because Sharie's vocals on top of the heavy guitar riffs just creates a dreary, depressing, and horrific blend of doom (in a excellent way!).
In the Chapel of the Black Hand is a total of 4 tracks and clocks in at 41:08; so, you know you are in for a long ride of some heavy ***ing doom! A slowly building organ sound from the church of hell slowly builds to become The Cult of Souls, and once the guitars come in, the sacrifice may now commence. The guitar tone on this record is just so damn crunchy, thick, and ballsy, and to have it accompanied with such menacing slow, down tuned riffs adds to the heaviness displayed. And to add, Sharie's clean vocals doused with tons of vibrato flowing over the riffs makes her sound possessed, demented, and tortured. Which leads me to the overall production, the vocals don't overpower the music and vice versa; everything is evenly mixed. None of the musicians are overly flashy, each instrument works around the riff and the organic nature of the song.
One may wonder...how can a 14 minute song keep you enthralled throughout the entire arrangement? Well, The Wounded Kings add a good element of layers and textures full of organs, feedback, guitar effects, and chants to give the song dynamics. With all of these elements involved it gives the songs the personality that they are trying to perceived through the lyrics. As the album is about Sharie (or fictitious character) being sacrificed at the altar and the darkness that lurks around her. The album closer, In the Chapel of the Black Hand, is a perfect example of the atmosphere of the whole entire album. If the music doesn't drag you any closer to the dark realm, the closing lyrics of "The body is gone, but the head needs the soul. The heart no longer beats, but still the blood it flows" repeating over and over again shall draw you in. And now we now see the doors to the chapel closing and the sacrifice is complete.
In conclusion, this is an excellent slab of doom and one of the top 10 contenders for heaviest records to come out this year. The Wounded Kings are back stronger than ever, and without Sharie being on this record, I don't think the record would sound as evil as it does. Be doomed!