It’s to be expected that a solo record from a member of goth-metal titans Tribulation would be dark in tone; after all, that band are the leading purveyors of Sisters of Mercy-style moodiness combined with extreme metal theatrics. But what guitarist Jonathan Hultén has recorded for Chants from Another Place is dark in a manner that is, perhaps, unexpected – at least, unexpected to those who did not hear previous solo EP The Dark Night Of The Soul. For his solo work, Hultén records the kind of dark, gothic folk that can be compared to Chelsea Wolfe and Hexvessel, but also to the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Fleet Foxes. Sonically, it is a world away from the heavy riffing of Tribulation albums such as Down Below; but thematically and in mood, it’s not so far removed from such mighty works.
At heart, Chants from Another Place is a deeply personal, almost spiritual work. Hultén’s personality comes through strongly on these acoustic-led songs, his sense of questing and questioning driving the music forwards. Despite the softness of the music and Hultén’s vocals (at least, on the surface level), there is a darkness here that quickly reveals itself, a haunted shadow looming large over every sweet harmony and gentle melody. As this might suggest, Chants from Another Place is an album that has instant appeal. Hultén’s voice is a marvel, hugely charismatic and full of personality, and his playing is never less than wonderful, whether he be picking careful melodies as on ‘The Mountain’ and ‘Outskirts’, strumming powerful, restless chords on ‘Next Big Day’, or taking the more restrained, subdued approach present on ‘Wasteland’. The changes in musical emphasis and subtle shifts in tone ensure that Chants from Another Place is as captivating and hypnotic as it is intellectually stimulating. It can be a melancholic listen, but it’s one that’s so driven by the questing personality of its creator that it never slips into the bleak.
Instead, Chants from Another Place is an album that acknowledges and embraces the darkness inherent in life, forever pushing on in the search for truth and self-actualisation. Confronting pain and overcoming challenges is an inherent part of that process, and that’s something Chants from Another Place doesn’t just recognise but embraces. It is a fearless, life-affirming album, a journey of death and rebirth that is full of almost spiritual power, that stares into the abyss without ever risking being consumed by it.
Chants From Another Place is released via Kscope on 13th March and can be purchased here.
Words: Stuart Wain