The Wounded Kings reach new heights on ‘In the Chapel of the Black Hand’

Anyone who reads this site with any regularity knows I like the doom metal. I’ll take it in all of its various forms. I like it when it’s deathy and loud, and I like it when it’s full of drone, and I like it when it sounds like it was recorded 30 years ago in someone’s basement. If it’s doom, I’ll give it a shot.

That’s what ultimately led me to seek out The Wounded Kings several years ago. Initially I read about the UK band somewhere on the Internet and eventually tracked down some of their stuff. I got into “The Shadow Over Atlantis,” their 2010 sophomore effort, and the first time I wrote about the band was because of their split last year with Cough called “An Introduction to the Black Arts.” They made me think of sitting in heavily carpeted basements in a cloud of smoke, and that always made me happy. But there was something about them that seemed to prevent the Wounded Kings from grasping greatness, and I just couldn’t put my ginger on what that was.

With their new album “In the Chapel of the Black Hand,” I know what it was that held them back. They didn’t have that dynamic, special singer who made the band stand out from the rest of the pack. I liked George Birch’s throwback-style pipes just fine, and I never saw him as a detriment, but he also didn’t help the band transcend. But with the introduction of new vocalist Sharie Neyland, they finally seem to have that person commanding the band out front that makes them special. This record should be their arrival and has to be the one that inflates the band’s profile. If it doesn’t, then damn it, people just aren’t paying close enough attention.

“In the Chapel” is a 41-minute collection of smoking, gloomy, witchy doom metal, and that’s not just because of Neyland’s haunting vocals. The whole thing sounds like a major conjuring, especially on opener “The Cult of Souls,” where Neyland calls upon Dionysus and warns, “Dark moon rises, the ritual has begun.” You almost can imagine the band huddled around a camp fire in the middle of the woods with nothing but dark spiritual connection as their agenda. Musically, there are séance-style organs, a slowly unfurling haze, and spacey slide guitar work to keep your eyes glazed. “Gates of Oblivion” is deliberately pulverizing and seductive, with some epic lead guitar lines and tortured imagery, especially when Neyland observes, “The skies are weeping blood.” “Return of the Sorcerer” is both gritty and gothy in texture, with some spiraling guitar lines and bluesy, traditional doom soloing. The epic closing title track simmers and shakes, taking on a bloody storytelling mode lyrically, as the whole band unleashes its entire bag of ghostly tricks. Steve Mills and Alex Kearney are stars throughout the album in their own right, but they really go for the throat on the closer, leaving you both satisfied and hungry for more. Considering the amazing clip at which the band has worked ever since their first record in 2008, it shouldn’t be long until they return.

To buy “In the Chapel of the Black Hand,” go here:

Speaking of the Wounded Kings’ debut, Eyes Like Snow/Northern Silence is re-releasing “Embrace of the Narrow House,” the band’s first slab of goodness. It’s only being released in limited quantities, so get on this soon, and it will contain a remastered album, new cover art and a rehearsal version of “Melanthos.” This, of course, gives you a visit with the band’s original form with Birch as vocalist, and really, he’s an excellent, dark singer whose work I really enjoy. He has more of a vintage sound to his voice and understated charisma, and I certainly understand why there was so much hand wringing when he left the band. I just like Neyland’s presence a lot more. Mills, the only other full-time member at the time, handled a bulk of the instrumentation. This certainly is something that’s a must-have for any enthusiast of classic doom metal and certainly for Wounded Kings diehards. You won’t be able to get your hands on this thing until early next year, but we’ll add a link below so you know where to go get this piece of doom history.

To buy “Embrace of the Narrow House,” go here:

For more on the label, go here:

That’s a lot of material from the Wounded Kings to absorb, but we recommend you try both on for size. Obviously from what you just read, you’re definitely going to get on the crest of what should be a tidal wave of acceptance from the doom community with their excellent new record, but spending time with “Embrace of the Narrow House” will give you a greater sense of history of the band as well as a deeper appreciation of just how far they’ve come since.

For more on the band, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

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