There are a number of adjectives I could apply to describe this work by The Chant from Finland– to start let’s go for calm, dreamy, atmospheric, sinister and progressive. Played in a post-rock style with a great deal of colour, it’s easy to see why this band is mentioned in the same breath as Porcupine Tree and Anathema. The tinkling progression brings on musical images of Bossk. And what is it about Finnish bands of a gothic and ambient inclination and their ability to turn melody and beauty into something dark and sinister. Here the deceptive simplicity of sentenced matches the deep whisperings of Tenhi. The track titles of “A Healing place” are equally frugal: “Regret”, “Spectral Light”, “Outlines” and so on. Looking further afield geographically but not so far, as I listened to “Outlines”, I heard all of the above and the plaintive and sinister threat of Katatonia too in the musical delivery and vocals.
I made the mistake when first listening to “A Healing Place” of trying to pick out all the technicality. This, however, is an album to be absorbed. There’s loads going on. There are seven band members purveying rock melodies but as flowers blossom, appealing melodies expand seamlessly into songs of transforming instrumental and vocal moods. I listened to the massaging “Riverbed” and felt the sadness flowing through my veins. My only disappointment was that it ended and I had to return to normality. But its successor, the distinctly Katatonian “The Black Corner”, takes us off and away into another melody-driven soundscape. The depth of this work is amazing. Both “The Black Corner” and “Ocean Speaks” tick like a clock but in their different ways there’s a special mix of edginess and reflection, suggesting all is not right in this ostensibly constant world. There’s a danger of descending into dreariness for its own sake but the musicianship is sharp and fresh. Subtle sounds appear in the background. The drum work is soft enough to be unobtrusive yet hard and subtle enough to reflect both the constancy and mood. The mood never strays far from the melancholic and on “Outlines” and “Spectral Light” it is reinforced further by the distant sound of the trumpet. The atmosphere may be bleak but there is always power.
There is no uniform pace. It’s never breakneck – it is not that kind of album – but like a dream, it patiently comes at you from all angles, often with the unexpected. “My Kin” is quiet as ever but from the usual melancholic beginnings we are taken into hypnosis. Soft drums, sound effects and another dreamy post-rock track complete the work.
The Chant cover a lot of ground here and in doing so exhibit great technical skill, co-ordinated thinking and a mastery of shadowy moods. I couldn’t describe this album as escapist in the strictest sense because its reflectiveness plays into every day emotions and reactions. I found that I became immersed in it. It’s easy to do that. “A Healing Place” is pure therapy.
(8.5 / 10 Andrew Doherty)