Things up to now have been quiet for San Francisco’s Pale Chalice. The band released their debut EP Afflicting the Dichotomy of Trepid Creation via The Flenser back in 2011, and I think we can all agree that in today’s metal climate four years is a freakin’ eternity between releases. But give just one listen to Negate the Infinite and Miraculous, the quintet’s inaugural full-length for new label home Gilead Media, and it will become readily apparent that Pale Chalice favors quality over quantity.
Indeed, with Negate the Infinite and Miraculous they have more than made up for their lengthy period of inactivity by forging an album that sees them sounding as hungry as they did back in 2011, but is also surprisingly catchy. This is black metal with riffs, and make no mistake, these riffs will alternately slither and pound their way into your feable brain come hell or high water. The band possesses a keen ear for crafting songs that are as memorable as they are vicious and visceral, harnessing black metal’s inherent nastiness and shaping it into an aural beating you won’t soon forget.
Musically, Pale Chalice are nowhere near as schizophrenic as frontman Ephemeral Domignostika’s other projects, such as the ultra-chaotic Mastery or the improvised madness of Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, but the fact that the band chooses to follow a more traditional blackened path does not make them any less enjoyable. In fact, the band’s straightforward assault might be its greatest strength; as I mentioned in my recent review of Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus’ The Child Must Die, there simply aren’t enough bands doing traditional black metal with any real thought given to craftsmanship. Pale Chalice set themselves apart by putting their own stamp on the genre while at the same time showing utmost reverence for it.
In spite of being rooted in black metal orthodoxy, Negate the Infinite and Miraculous isn’t all monochromatic blasting. A variety of moods and textures are explored, with the band giving plenty of attention to establishing an unholy atmosphere while still creating an album that is energized with a bulldozing thrust of forward momentum. This is a highly cohesive set of songs that when taken together can knock you over and trample you to death, but can also enshroud you in total darkness. Much like their label-mates False, Pale Chalice are as much about creating total musical environments as they are about ripping you apart at the molecular level.
Negate the Infinite and Miraculous is a massive step forward for Pale Chalice. While their EP was no doubt promising, I had suspected that it would take the band some time to blossom. However, the album finds them emerging from their slumber fully formed, with a recording that is both complete-sounding and indelible. Another contender for black metal album of the year.