Discovering Chamber Band was a happy accident. I first heard them on the podcast Gamerstable, where their songs were played as theme music in each week’s episodes for about a month. The podcast was one focused on Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games, a la Dungeons and Dragons, or Shadowrun. The lead singer of the nerdy quintet, Chris, actually came on the show to talk to the other members.
The first song I hear by Chamber Band was “Constitution, and I instantly fell in love. Rather than listen to the episode, I just listened to the intro song on repeat. I’ll get into why I loved the song in a bit, but from that point onward I was very much in love.
So, as a tribute to one of my favorite bands in recent memory, I figured I should write a review of their debut album, Deities. Rather than overall impressions, I will review each song individually, and then wrap up the review at the end.
Also, it should also be noted that Chamber Band is fairly steeped in nerd culture. The entire album is based in a Dungeons and Dragons world, and as such, the lyrics often reflect aspects and Deities from the world. This fact does not, however, keep those without and Dungeons and Dragons knowledge from enjoying the music. I listened the the album probably five or six times through before I caught on to the fantasy themed lyrics. The music can be appreciated on its own merits, and the nerdy references are just the icing on the musical cake.
Track One: Lawful Neutral
Lawful neutral opens with a mournful low piano, before kicking off into a drum fueled, syncopated romp that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s almost primal sounding drum beats keep the song pulsing, while the song subtly builds, adding more frantic instruments and extra parts until a climax right at the end, followed by immediate silence. It actually leads to the next song quite well, even if the tone of the song doesn’t mix with the acoustic-indie feel of the rest of the album.
Track Two: Constitution
Now, onto the song that started it all. A song about an immortal adventurer, and the sorrows he puts his wife through in the process, this song is incredibly catchy. With a driving drum pulse, and a frantic, upbeat pace this song is everything you would want out of a feel good, happy, summer song. Seriously, this is one of the best songs on the album. All the instruments blend well with each other, building consistently as the song goes on to keep the energy going. I’ve listened to this song on repeat a lot, and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. It just makes me feel good.
Track Three: Prophetic Heart
Prophetic heart is the shortest song on the entire album, clocking in at 1:48. This song is a little bit more understated than some of the others on Deities, using only drums, acoustic guitar, a little bit of bass, and what sounds like a xylophone. One of the strong suits of the entire album is Chamber Band’s ability to write lyrics with a multitude of emotions, and this is one of the lighter songs on the album. The lyrics focus on an unnamed protagonist as he falls in love. The only problem, is that he can see into the future. As his relationship with this girl goes on, he regrets never telling her about his clairvoyance. “Going down to the river for a summery day” they write, “I already know everything that she is going to say. But I play pretend, my nodding never ends…” The light hearted lyrics fit well with the song, and create an enjoyable, albeit brief journey, through the mind of a prophet.
Track Four: Yeenoghu
This song is another to add to the “lighthearted songs” list. This song is in the form of a prayer to Yeenoghu, a Demon God. The prayer is not only apologizing for turning away from his God, but also praying strenght to “go into town and steal the one I love away”. The song is in 5/4 time, and feels almost like an upbeat waltz. All the songs in Deities are very catchy, but this one ranks up towards the top. This song’s lyrics balance humorous self deprecation, where the singer almost begs to be destroyed, and heartwarming descriptions of how much he loves this girl. It’s definitely an offbeat song, and one of the highlights of the album.
Track Five: Shape Shifter
Shape Shifter is, in my opinion, the best song on the entirety of Deities. It takes everything that the band does best, and exemplifies it. The acoustic guitar part is intricate and beautiful, the the music swells into triumphant crescendos, and back to low key verses with ease. The harmonies are tight, and all the instruments blend exquisitely. The drums keep your head bobbing, and even the heavily distorted guitar succeeds in adding some hard rock influences, without overpowering the rest of the song. And then there’s the lyrics. Shape Shifter’s lyrics are great, and slightly heartbreaking. A lament about one’s lover never being satisfied with them, it’s a theme that many can relate to, and the Dungeons and Dragons elements only serve to add a little spice to an already stellar song. It’s sad, well written, triumphant, and shows Chamber Band at their finest.
Track Six: Hold onto Us
This is the first slow song on the album, and is much more minimalistic than the previous tracks. Consisting of two voices, a guitar, understated drums, and the occasional piano chord, Hold onto Us’ overall sound fits its lyrical themes of young love and wanderlust. It’s slow, calming, and beautiful to the ear. “With a feeling inside of, there is nothing to fear. As long as we hold onto us, the future is clear”. Part love song, part travel diary, Hold onto Us sounds almost melancholy, but infused with hope. And it works well.
Track Seven: Oh Io
Here’s another highlight of the album. Of all the songs on the album, this one is one of the most blatantly Dungeons and Dragons themed, but that doesn’t matter. This song is fantastic. A lament of a homesick lover, this songs builds incredibly, starting out with nothing but a guitar and a voice, and gaining intensity at full force until the end. Keeping with the theme of darn catchy songs, this one is no exception. The chorus is syncopated, and the bridge/ breakdown section may be my favorite part of the song. (Skip to 2:35 or so, and listen onwards from there to see what I’m talking about). Also, I love the drums in this song. I don’t know why, but they stick out to me more than any of the other drum sections on the album. Seriously, this is one good song.
Track Eight: Petitioner
Now we get to the one ugly duckling of the album. Petitioner just doesn’t do it for me like the rest of the songs on Deities. It’s syncopated, and pretty hard rocky, which seems like something that Chamber Band is not best suited to do. I can’t place my finger on exactly why, but the song just kind of grates on me, and I find myself skipping it more than any other song on the entire album. Some listeners might find its manic intensity quite to their liking, but personally, I don’t much care for it.
Track Nine: Asmodeus:
Asmodeus is a beautiful song. It’s by far the most mellow and understated song on Deities, and that’s exactly the song it needs to be. Focussed on a lamenting lover who lost his partner to a cult, this song is haunting in both melody and sound. The dissonance here matches the sorrow of the singer, helping the listener to connect with him. And the lyrics are pure poetry. I won’t post an excerpt here, because they deserve to be heard as a whole. Needless to say, these lyrics could serve as a piece of poetry all by themselves, and they are only bolstered by the music.
Track Ten: God of Greed
God of Greed is the longest song an Deities, clocking in at a little over six minutes. And despite it being almost double the length of the other songs on the album, it fits in well with them. What starts off as a search for treasure quickly turns into a fight for the adventurer’s lives, and this song feels just as epic as the subject matter. Remember how I mentioned that the songs on Deities range from humorous to downright heart wrenching? This song one of the heart wrenching ones. It’s sad, and juggles the line between energetic and melancholy very well, keeping the listener engaged not only in the story that Chamber Band is telling, but in the music itself.
Track Eleven: Sleep Charm
Now, we come to the final song of the album, and Sleep Charm feels like it’s the band’s way of saying goodbye. Its quiet, and filled with love, both from the band, and the characters in the song. The relationship described in the song is intricate, and changes over time. I won’t say anymore, but the story told in Sleep Charm is one of my favorites on the album. The harmonies between the singers are beautiful, and just help to relax the listener. It’s a perfect ending to a stellar album.
Deities is one of my favorite albums in a long while. I always judge how much I like an album by when I am in the mood to listen to it. With most of my favorite bands, I am always in the mood to listen to them. Chamber Band is no exception. It’s been almost a year since I first listened to Deities, and I still play it frequently. The music is intricate enough to not wear out over multiple listens, and I love the subject matter of the album, both from the Dungeons and Dragons standpoint, and storytelling aspects as well. Seriously, listen to this album. It transcends the nerd culture, and is just darn good music.
(Chamber Band can be found here.)