Talking about a death doom record released by a Jordanian band might appear as a curious anomaly, but the most attentive among the genre’s admirers know very well that the Middle Eastern nation, even with all the understandable difficulties of the case, showcases one of the most vital scenes among those found outside the usual geographical areas. It is no coincidence, in fact, that only a year ago in this very forum I had had the opportunity to talk about Falling Leaves’ beautiful debut and that the excellent Bilocate had deservedly earned a certain notoriety outside the national borders as early as 2007 thanks to a work like Sudden Death Syndrome. Chalice Of Doom, who ideally complete this triad of bands from Jordan, have been active since 2010 and already with their debut in 2011, Immemorial Nightfall, they had aroused great interest and gained positive feedback; in Into Hypnagogia the small smears shown in the previous release disappear altogether to leave room for a mature record and at the same time of great intensity and quality, both musically and lyrically. Death Gown immediately grabs the attention thanks to its mournful guitar lines, but it is with the following Shaheed that the Jordanian boys give us one of the most touching and engaging tracks heard in recent times: the rhythmic applause of a screaming crowd immediately gives way to a melody capable of touching the deepest chords of the soul (Ahmad does a magnificent job on lead guitar) before Fares’ deep growl takes over the scene, spewing with all the rage of the case the pain and dismay that, anyone with reason feels for the innocent victims of the pointless and seemingly endless conflicts that have bloodied the Middle East in recent decades (“Six decades of inhuman torment / Genocides consumed our eyes / Will the children forgive the fathers /For everything they did and said?“). Shaheed (meaning martyr) encompasses in its central part precious moments in which Arabic music magically merges with the somber scores of death doom, before the track ends as it began, returning us to sadness and, hopefully, to a newfound awareness of what has happened and continues to happen in parts of the world relatively close to us geographically, but which sometimes seem light years away. By placing this authentic musical gem in the early part of a rather lengthy album like Into Hypnagogia is, everything that comes after seriously risks being penalized; such is not the case, fortunately, thanks to the inspired songwriting of Chalice Of Doom, and so, if Dyer Of Dusk (also embellished by a goosebump guitar) somewhat picks up the structure of Death Gown, Profound skillfully blends Saturnus and Opeth, in a perfect vocal and sonic alternation, while Against The Wind contains within it an effective part entrusted to the flute, which provides the song with an almost prog flavor, with the icing on the cake of Marius Strand’s (The Fall Of Every Season) vocal contribution. Flute that also characterizes the dramatic Bridesmaid Of The Woods, which is followed by the more contemplative The Coin Fountain, featuring a beautiful vocal duet, which constitutes a moment of transient quiet before the terrifying growl of guest Rogga Johansson (Paganizer, The Grothesquery, The 11th Hour) takes over the scene to contribute to the success of the darkest and most oppressive track on the entire record. For the sake of completeness of information (and especially not to do the artists in question a disservice), it is only right to mention the guest appearances of Maria Zvyagina (Falling Leaves, formerly Wine From Tears) and Giampaul Andrianopoulos on keyboards, vocalist Christina Kroustali and flutist Majd Qewar. Chalice Of Doom belong to the more melancholic and emotional side of death doom and rightfully fit into that stylistic segment that features Saturnus, Swallow The Sun, and Officium Triste among others as its main performers, but Into Hypnagogia certainly does not live by others’ cues and influences alone: the Jordanian band shines in its own light, not only thanks to the arabesque aura that constantly hovers over the work even when it is not directly perceptible, but mainly because of the taste exhibited in the arrangements and in the natural alternation between leaden and more airy atmospheres, though constantly united by a melancholic patina. The five boys from Zarqa (who, it is worth noting, are all between the ages of 20 and 25) are no longer just a concrete hope but, with this latest work of theirs, prove that they are now fully-fledged and splendidly established.
2013 – Memento Mori