Let’s take a moment, if we may, to talk about the “ah-ha” moment. That moment when all of a sudden, an album just clicks. Sometimes it comes right away, sometimes after two or three listens, and sometimes—and I feel this is a rarity in the age of the next release being just a click or two away—seven, eight, nine, or more listens away. And even if the listener has the patience to put that much time into an album, there is no guarantee that “ah-ha” moment will ever arrive.
What I thought I got was a mess. Granted, the rawer production on the earlier releases of the band held its charms—charms I have a particular affection towards. A certain wispy, dreamy quality that accentuates the grit and fuzz, and the raw sounds of live recording that bring to life the fantasized medieval elements that inspire the melodic speed metal stylings of the band. I’m not sure if I expected the production to be more polished or what, but as soon as “The Immurement” kicked in after the introductory passage, I found myself at a bit of a loss. While the levels and mixing weren’t too derivative of the band’s previous material, everything just sounded rushed. The drums seemed a bit off time, and the once clear, driving bass felt a bit too muddled in the mix. Occasionally bits of the album would connect, like the undeniably epic feel of the riffs on tracks like “Road Of Light,” or the inescapably catchy might of the chorus of “Stormbringer.”
But still, something felt off. I started to dread returning to the album. I wanted to like it so badly, but it just wasn’t fitting into the vision I had of Chevalier’s potential. But then, it came. The “ah-ha” moment. It took several plays, several false starts of writing this very review with notions of noble knights finding their way through the growing pains of being young conquistadors with a foolhardy idea of speeding through the production of their highly anticipated debut, but then that “ah-ha” moment really arrived in a most unexpected manner.
Speed metal has its name for a reason. Quickness is the name of the game here—quickness and flash. How many times have you gone to see a metal band that embraces speed in any regard, be it thrash metal, death metal, black metal, whatever, and the band plays at about twice the speed of the record. That’s the sense of urgency Chevalier have created on Destiny Calls, as though they have harnessed their own youthful exuberance as a tool. “In The Grip Of Night” is a fine example, with the drums almost jumping ahead of the music. It feels like the rest of the band is keeping up with the maniac behind the kit by a thread, but somehow it works. Everything is just brimming with life in a way rarely captured on studio recordings.
The only track re-recorded from any of their previous material, “The Curse Of The Dead Star” (from last year’s excellent Chapitre II EP) stands as a litmus test. While played a hair slower than its previous incarnation, the Destiny Calls version does harness that live energy that ends up being the secret to the album’s success. It’s unabashedly organic, human, and alive. There is always something happening around the melodic, lead-heavy riffing delivered with reckless abandon, be it shuffling drum fills or the presence of the iron-weighted bass beneath the percolation of Emma Grönqvist’s conviction in her vocal delivery. It all adds to the collective “all for one, one for all” playing style of the members of the chivalrous quintet. The busy style of the band in this form that I had previously thought of as a mess is attributed to all five playing their hearts out at every moment, and it took a few listens for this to sink in and realize it is a trait to be appreciated.
While Destiny Calls ended up coming around on me, I realize it does leave me wanting them to progress and evolve, but not change too much because remaining uncompromising does indeed suit them. Being a fan is sometimes a contradictory practice, and, at least for now, Chevalier can still count me as one of their loyal listeners. Stay true to thine selves, metal knights, because that’s when we love you the most.