Chevalier - Chapitre II - (8.5/10)
Published on July 8, 2018
Chapitre II begins with a wistful, aching intro of clean guitar and monstrous bass. Slow cymbal swells build the drama and excitement. You can tell that something incredible is about to happen, and Chevalier extends this intro just long enough to build you to a fever pitch before—
You take the plunge.
Chevalier is an absolutely electric band. High energy does not do these Finns justice at all. Chevalier play a blistering style of speed metal that is filled with incredibly catchy riffs. “The Messenger” begins the album with an atom bomb’s worth of force. Once the opening riff kicks in, the song does not slow down, let up, or take any prisoners. The riffing is nimble and forceful at once, dancing through excellent sped-up Maiden riffs and incredible tremolo picked speed riffs. There is an excellent mix of melody and aggression in the guitar playing. Tommi and Miko balance melodic lines with balls-out tremolo lines very nicely. Like the opener, “Curse of the Dead Star” begins with a slower, more thematic intro before kicking into the song proper, which, again, is a shredfest. There’s also a sense of menace in many of the riffs and solos, like a galloping hoard approaching the gates to slaughter a village. Bergman’s bass is mixed like Steve Harris’s: in your face. The bass deftly follows the riffs and sometimes takes on the role of the main rhythm while the guitars solo over top (see the compelling end of “Curse of a Dead Star” for an example of this). Albums that utilize a really loud in your face bass are too few and far between; Chevalier really nails this one for the bass heads.
Emma Grönqvist’s vocals are a highlight, soaring through the twists and turns of the guitar and bass. She warbles in a voice that is dripping with emotion. She sounds practically fit to burst with fervor throughout. Her vocals are in the vein of classic USPM acts like Agent Steel and Fates Warning—energetic, kind of insane, and essential. She also ends every song here with a banshee falsetto screech. Some may find it distasteful to end every song this way, but for those who are into totally over the top vocal performances, you’ll love it.
The drumming is easy to ignore because of the excellent riffs and vocals. The production also makes it harder to pick up on some of the stuff Joel is doing because it is pretty raw. But the drumming should not be ignored. Joel’s drumming is all over the place, perfectly mirroring and augmenting every riff, melody, and build-up throughout the album. He is an absolute maniac who forces the band to keep up with his driving rhythms and gallops. There are so many incredible fills and cymbal crashes that are nearly swallowed up by the production, but if one pays close attention, this is an astounding drum performance. It reminds me a lot of the drumming on Hellfriends, the 2016 classic from Demon Bitch (that alone should yell you a lot).
Though I see this as a plus, I can see some being turned off by the raw production. I already mentioned that some elements of the drums can get lost in the fray. Often, guitar solos are at the same level as all of the other instruments, so they are not very easily audible. They are not buried in the mix, and they are certainly discernable, but if one is used to solos being pushed way up in the mix so that they’re in your face, this production style may be a shock. Classic USPM acts are again a good reference point for the production. Think 80’s Brocas Helm, Manilla Road, et al.—coarse, gritty, and coming apart at the seams.
All told, Chevalier tantalizes with a phenomenal EP. They continue to grow in their songwriting and it is clear they are becoming masters of their particular sound. If they can keep this energy up, maintain their old-school production techniques, and keep writing epic, aggressive speed metal, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with