Carnation – Chapel of Abhorrence Review

Band: Carnation
Album: Chapel of Abhorrence
Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Death Metal
Country: Belgium
Release Date: 17 August, 2018

Carnation, hailing from Belgium, are an embodiment of the death metal of the 80’s and 90’s; thrashy, guttural, caustic, and catchy. Founded by guitarist Jonathan Verstrepen to show his admiration for old school death metal legends in early 2013, the band was completed by Simon Duson on vocals, Yarne Heylen on bass, Bert Vervoort on guitar, and Vincent Verstrepen on drums. Chapel of Abhorrence is the first full length from this thrashing quintet; following an EP, and two live releases of their 2016 performance at the Asakusa Deathfest in Tokyo, Japan.

Simon Duson is a tremendous vocalist, delivering the lyrics with a remarkably intelligible gravel-throated growl. It can vary from a low register growl, to a more thrash metal approach at the perfect moment. This is the first review I’ve done where the lyrics were provided to me, and it is ironic that I didn’t need them at all. I’m not entirely sure who is responsible for the lyrics, but they do deserve unique praise as they are well written. The lyrics deal in the standard realms of most death metal songs, anything from torture to rituals and otherworldly beings. Unlike many bands, Carnation doesn’t take a ham-fisted limited-vocabulary approach; instead we’re presented with a clear story or theme to each song with imagery-rich language. Nothing is shrouded in obscure verbose passages either; the lyrics aren’t as esoteric as some modern death metal can be.

Jonathan Verstrepen and Bert Vervoot are death/thrash guitar wizards. Each song is distinctive and carries a melody through the riffing that peaks out at the perfect time. There was limited soloing and guitar interplay on the album, which was the only mild disappointment I had with their display across the run time. Yarne Heylen on bass and Vincent Verstrepen on drums handle the low end like seasoned veterans. The bass slithers along just under the buzz of the guitars, keeping everything sounding low and evil. Pounding, near boundlessly energetic drums fill each song wall to wall; fills and ripping double bass make frequent appearances among the more standard, though no less impressive, beats matching the guitars.

A few highlight songs for me are ‘The Whisperer,’ ‘Chapel of Abhorrence,’ and ‘Sermon of the Dead.’ ‘The Whisperer’ functions as a strong opener; as the longest song, it shows the full range of Carnation immediately. ‘Chapel of Abhorrence’ and ‘Sermon of the Dead’ are instantly memorable and have a high replay value; both are unforgiving brutal head-bang fests that are a blast to play at full volume. There are a couple of songs I’d like to mention on the other end of the coin; they are the weaker tracks among some excellent death metal. ‘Hellfire,’ ‘Plaguebreeder,’ and ‘Magnum Chaos’ aren’t bad songs by any means, in fact they are great, and they would have made a fine EP; these particular songs on Chapel of Abhorrence pale in comparison to the stronger showings. Counter to a common critique of mine, I think this album could have benefitted from a shorter runtime.

There is a rather rigid formation to the songs; typically you find a verse-bridge-chorus-verse-chorus-etc structure in these songs, which is exactly like the bands of the era they are paying homage to. I’m of two minds on this, because I tend to like metal that is more challenging. It did initially bother me that traditional song structure was adhered to so strictly, making the songs somewhat predictable. However, the more I listened to it, the more I found myself enjoying memorizing the lyrics to scream along; not minding the repetitive nature one bit, and anticipating the chorus wrecking my throat.

All in all this some great death metal that just ran a bit long with a few songs that don’t shine quite as bright as the others. Carnation has been making a name for themselves on the stage well before this release, and I have no doubt they’ll be a huge act before long. Chapel of Abhorrence is a good first full length with some outstanding songs that will appeal to old school death and thrash metal fans. Even though this album won’t likely be in my top ten at the end of the year, Carnation are definitely a band to watch.

Rating: 7/10

1. The Whisperer
2. Hellfire
3. Chapel of Abhorrence
4. The Unconquerable Sun
5. Disciples of Bloodlust
6. Hatred Unleashed
7. Plaguebreeder
8. Magnum Chaos
9. Sermon of the Dead
10. Fathomless Depths
11. Power Trip

Total Playing Time: 47:37

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