The Imperial Skies, the debut album from British metal band Chapters is an uncompromising, visceral and utterly thrilling debut record that charms with its complete confidence in its own ability, beguiles with the the seamless blending of technical prowess and songcraft and thrills the bloody life out of you with its emotional and metallic core. Unlike many debut albums where you get a small amount of passion and an amuse-bouche quantity of potential to keep and eye on for future reference, The Imperial Skies delivers a veritable feast to gorge yourself on. It is, dear readers, absolutely terrific.
I’m not especially enamoured of pigeonholing but as it does make things somewhat easier, I will try and distill the essence of what this band are all about. Channeling the progressive tendencies that we have come to expect from the likes of Mastodon, the remorseless heaviness of a Machine Head or the technical riffing and melodic metal of a Megadeth, Chapters have pulled together an altogether compelling, brutal, and often experimental series of ingredients that wear influences well but never falls into the easy traps of copyist or blatant thievery. More, there is an expansiveness and intelligence to their work: their progressive roots and inherent musciality shine through, making this a debut record that simply leaps out of the speakers. They have clearly learned much from their touring experiences with Sylosis and Xerath in terms of dynamics but I also suspect that the band have spent much times poring over the Queen and Pink Floyd‘s back catalogue too, such is the variety of the musical offering on display here.
There is a ferocity and intensity to opening track I Will Reign Forever that is matched by the band’s ingenuity and creativity in songcraft. What could have been an cold and soulless exercise in technical wizardry and fretwankery is actually a passionate and thoroughly engaging progressive metal epic. They really do mean it. Elsewhere you cannot fail to be moved and thrilled by the piledriving riffing of March of the Puritan or the relentless malevolence of The Siren.
What truly impresses though about this band in general and the album in particular is that they are no one trick ponies. The ease with which they blend their undoubted penchant for the heavy with an equally adept skill at creating more ambient and evocative soundscapes- most notably on the frankly astonishing title track and the more measured, melancholic The Ecliptic Circle (with guest vocalist Sian Sanderson) -suggests that this is a band with the talent and potential to meet their undoubted ambition. As debut albums go, this is properly, seriously, good.