Purveyor of blackened everything Jan Slezak has been quite busy in 2014. His amazing "blackened stenchviolence" band Ramlord recently released a split with crusty Dutch comrades Nuclear Devastation and has another split release with USBM stalwarts Krieg out shortly. Not only that but his solo project Leather Chalice has released two phenomenal tapes already this year, one a full-length, Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air which was put out by Opaqus Records. The other a one song 15 minute EP, Luna, which was released by Broken Limbs Recordings. Both are murky rides through a blackened punk nightmare but they each travel very different paths.
Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air
From the creeping ambient intro to the last scuzzy chord of "Despondent Reign" Jan takes the listener on a journey, one of punk ferocity mixed with mournful black metal. Punk and black metal have been a natural combination for quite some time with bands like Bone Awl, Furdidurke, and Raspberry Bulbs making waves in the underground but Leather Chalice's approach is different. Conjuring images of drunken trips to the graveyard Jan's ability to play sloppy (a term used ever so fondly) punk laced with the morbid atmosphere of black metal stands out amongst the hordes of bands playing in a similar style. Some tracks are almost pure punk like "Necrohenosis," which starts off with an almost uplifting post-punky riff but soon turned into a stomping display of swampy punk madness, graced with Jan's howls. Other are purely black metal like the guitar instrumental "The Worshippers Garden," displaying a more traditional black metal sound, melancholy in it's execution. These two songs juxtaposed against one another, one grimy punk one sorrowful black metal work perfectly. The way Jan weaves the two together is astounding. Some tracks seamlessly combine the raw elements of both black metal and punk, like "Conquest of Terminal Despair" which begins with an icy tremolo picked portion that sounds like it's coming straight from the second wave and quickly become a punk ripper before descending back into the black metal framework. The two genres contaminate one another forming a hybrid between the two, not punk, not black metal but some warped combination of both.
If Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air is straightforward, Luna represents Jan's foray into the abstract and experimental. Still rooted in the combination of black metal and punk the tape is a 15 minute long delve into the warped psyche of it's undertaker. Filling the Leather Chalice sound with more ambient and noise he and his cohorts, Ben on drums, Tim on OP-I/electronics, and Devyn providing "dungeon ambient" create something unsettling and deranged. Washing the blackened punk in a spacy haze Luna is almost coldly psychedelic at times, guitar harmonies ring out over hypnotic drumming with odd noises fluttering in and out of focus. This is not to say that the blackened punk isn't as vicious as ever, it definitely is, but instead the unsettling atmosphere is amplified by the inclusion of new sounds. Jan's guitar playing is also given new life on the track, often rising above the murk and playing creeping guitar solos. At times the noise takes over, acting as a segue into a new portion of the track, being a huge fan of noise and electronics these additions only add to Leather Chalice's sound, making it more cryptic and providing the album with an experimental touch. The production here is certainly improved, with clarity highlighting the skilled composition of the 15 minute opus, maintaining a raw edge without drowning the instruments in a sea of dirt, perfect for this type of expansive yet filthy music. After all the insanity Luna ends abruptly, coming to a howling (literally) and crashing halt.
I personally enjoyed Luna more out of the two, the extra elements and the lengthy structure allowed for the album to develop as it went. That being said, both of these albums demand your attention, and will grip you for their duration. If you have any sort of interest in black metal or punk and would enjoy a unique combination of the two Leather Chalice might just be your new favorite band. Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air is available from Opaqus Records here, and act quick the edition of 50 looks to be running out. Luna is available from Broken Limbs Recordings here. Pick both of them up and be dragged into the scummy world of Leather Chalice.