It has been observed many times—including by me—that the term “black metal” has become increasingly vague over the years. Are we talking about atmospheric music? Something epic and woodsy? Artistic and weird? Blistering, cold, boneheaded?
Pale Chalice, though: They embody black metal as it is today. The combine the weird, epic artistry of bands like Agalloch with a blistering, concise approach to songwriting. Their riffs are fast, scary, and cold. But the leads are eerie and a little experimental. Not Negative Plane weird, but still thoroughly 2010’s in intent. And, indeed, many are memorable.
Which is not to mention that sound! Heavy, rich, and dynamic. That dynamism matches their songwriting, which doesn’t drive at full-speed the whole time, slowing down here and there, going quiet and giving you space for a moment, before changing the rhythm and grabbing you by the eardrums with furious power once again.
This just might be one of the finest black metal albums of the year. And of course it’s come from the burgeoning San Francisco scene.
The Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars