Calliope’s third album blends head-banging stoner-rock with mesmerizing psyche-rock
There is a sense of looming doom on Milwaukee psyche-rock band Calliope’s latest release, Chapel Perilous, but its members don’t seem to mind as they become lost in 10 tracks of underlying synth, staggering guitar riffs and trance-like vocals.
Chapel Perilous, the third release from Calliope, was recorded in the isolation of the northern Wisconsin woods, just like the 2014 album ORBIS. If I didn’t already know this before my first listen, I would’ve guessed that the new album was recorded during the length of a motorcycle trek across the desert, with nothing but a bottomless supply of psychedelic drugs and whiskey on deck.
Throughout the album, Calliope blends headbanging stoner-rock with mesmerizing psyche-rock songs.
The album kicks off with “Astral Hand,” which wastes no time in establishing the gloomy-yetupbeat aura that encompasses the length of the album. Vocalist Al Kraemer’s droning, hypnotizing vocals capture your attention, making sure you’re along for the whole ride.
The tracks begin to open up afterward, with “Carry Me Home” marking the first of the more instrument-driven ones, laden with psychedelic guitar solos. Whereas the backbone of a band is usually the bass guitar, Calliope’s synth fleshes out the songs with sustained, eerie chords, which are omnipresent.
“Dunes” is the first of two instrumental breaks on the album, during which the guitar effects amplify the senses, producing a calm, dream-like atmosphere. “Sea of Red” is one of the singles from the album and is one of the most upbeat, culminating in a head-banging explosion of layered guitars. “Chapel Perilous” switches things up and puts the synth at the forefront, giving Kraemer a chance to showcase his keyboard skills as well as his vocals. The album’s finale, “Little Smoke,” is the other instrumental track, and by far the most foreboding. The entire album is a journey of the senses and the mind, and “Little Smoke” marks a gloomy end, the sobering up of the listener — or perhaps death itself.
Listening to Chapel Perilous is an experience, one that will transport you elsewhere when you close your eyes. For me, it was somewhere surrounded by desert, reminiscent of Jim Morrison’s visions in Oliver Stone’s The Doors. In fact, Calliope embraces the same dark tones The Doors and Velvet Underground often utilized, but amplifies it into more of a modern rock and roll sound that trudges along at a slow, attimes-heavy pace.
Chapel Perilous is a must-listen for fans of psyche-rock and stoner-rock alike — and for those brave enough to take the trip.
Listen to the album at calliope-mke. bandcamp.com.