Demo:listen: Enon Chapel

Enon Chapel is the latest project from the outlier black metal musician Balan (of Botanist, Palace of Worms, etc.). And Balan is joined in Enon Chapel by the vastly talented Meghan Wood (of Crown of Asteria, Iarnvidjur). Considering the works of these two, who could’ve expected that Enon Chapel would be rather straightforward black metal? As fierce as it is creative, as refreshing as it is simultaneously true to the genre, Enon Chapel’s demo fully demonstrates the endless potential of black metal as well as its cathartic powers—both for the listeners and the creators. It also rips—straightforward, no frills (though there are some cool keyboards!) rips!

So what made Balan and Meghan come together to make a band like Enon Chapel in the first place?

Balan reminds us that he “had contributed to Meghan’s Crown of Asteria project in the past, most notably her last full length The Ire of a Bared Fang, playing some mandolin and slide guitar.”

“I admired how [Meghan’s] music was very naturalistic, not necessarily being that its about nature specifically, but the primordial quality to much of it,” writes Balan. “Like a roughly hewn carving on a ancient tree. Asking her to contribute to the project seemed like the right idea given her versatility and work ethic.”

I have been a fan of Balan’s project Palace of Worms for quite a while,” Meghan explains. “He expertly constructs music of Lovecraftian like horrors that drag you into the depths of his ideas, influences and sound seemingly effortlessly and for me, the way he has honed his craft is a big inspiration. We struck up conversations about how we admired each other’s work and from there found out we had similar interests when it came to horror, metal, and history. So when he asked me if I was interested in this side project I was absolutely ecstatic to be involved.”

The fact that Balan and Meghan share interests in horror, metal, and history is crucial for Enon Chapel. As Balan explains: “Enon Chapel is a historical metal band. HCBM: History Channel Black Metal! Haha, I’m funny. But, no really all of the songs are about historical events or places that took place in England (specifically London) from about the 1820s to the end of the Victorian era in 1901. Technically the timeline begins in Georgian times but history isn’t about the details OK? The band takes its name from a notorious church/charnel house that existed in London near The Strand and was used by its sketchy residing Minister as an illicit burial place for thousands of the cities deceased poor and working class. These bodies were hastily interred in the cramped basement, often left uncovered to rot and fester, or get chopped up and dumped down the open sewer that ran through the crypt in order to make space. The Burial Reforms of the 1850s put an end to the Chapel and it ended up becoming a dance hall before being torn down.”

“My favorite bit of history is when normal Enon Chapel masses were being held the fumes from the rotting bodies inches beneath the congregations feet would make them pass out in the middle of sermons and people were leaving with air-borne illness from it,” Meghan says. “I think they figured out by then something dark was going on.” Balan says the story of Enon Chapel has always interested him. He explains: “The 19th century in Europe is a fertile period as far as mining morbid themes for metal recordings. The story of the chapel exists as an appropriately grotesque metaphor for much of the inhumanity of the period, and comparing that with the more romanticized perspective that we view the Victorian Era today provides an interesting contrast for me.”

Balan and Meghan live in different parts of the US, which can presents some challenges when it comes to rehearsing and recording. But Balan says the recording process was “pretty straightforward.”

“I recorded the guitars, bass, drums, keys, etc. here in California with a 4-track cassette recorder mixed with digital tracking and then sent the tracks to Meghan to add the vocals and guitar solos. It worked perfectly well this time around.”“[Enon Chapel] actually turned out much better than I expected,” admits Balan. “My initial goals were to make a very stripped down, very lo-fi basement level black metal demo in the vein of Ildjarn or early Mutiilation. I recorded the drums on a broken 4-track tape recorder and was going to do the whole project that way but decided at some point to take things a few steps further. It was my first time using Cubase to mix as well so the whole process was a learning experience for me. I think it still came out raw and fucked but at more of a halfway point which is fine for me.”

Meghan admits that she, too, was “unsure of what to expect.”  

“I didn’t want to overdo my vocals because of the initial goal of it wanting to be quite lo-fi and stripped down,” she says. “I tried to stay somewhere in the middle mixing both of our influences. So when we started to exchange mixes back and forth I thought the vocals ended up balancing out within the tracks and were complimentary.  I agree as well that in the end it came to a halfway point. There is grit and lo-fi vibes with just enough polish to make nuances stand out and instruments are clearly defined within the recordings.”This “halfway point” compromise is why the Enon Chapel demo is so memorable. It’s raw and vicious, but the compositions are sound, the recording is pitch-perfect, and the guitar leads are glorious.

As for the physical release of Enon Chapel, Balan explains that “as of now you can get the tape/digital from Acephale Winter Productions.”Looking ahead, Balan says he’d like to do a full length. “I have some ideas floating around and I’d like to incorporate some traditional English folk elements or ‘Dance Macabre’ pieces using historically-correct instruments. I’m wrapped up in demo-ing the next Palace of Worms record right now so there isn’t a whole lot of time but it will happen.”