Billed as an experimental black metal band, Ave Maria's music does actually not strike me at all as being challenging or extreme in any way. Now that does not mean that it is not good, because it is, and there are a lot of cool things on this album. I just find that it lacks the chaos and extreme experimentation with (dis)harmonies and all those other things you hear in experimental or avant-garde black metal.
Still, Ave Maria certainly break away from, if I dare, stereotypical black metal, and Chapter I does strike me as being different from a lot of the black metal that, in my experience, is typical. I mean, the black metal elements and aesthetics that define the genre are there (the tremolo picking, the tense harmonies, the unpolished production, the bleakness etc.), but the music itself is far less tense and much more melodic than what most people might expect from black metal. Also, the vocals are more akin to actual death growls than to the type of harsh vocals normally associated with black metal. In addition, the music on Chapter I is actually quite melodic with emphasis on melodic lead guitar figures inherently melodic guitar riffage, and the drums often display features akin to those of the fill-in rich drumming of a lot of 70s rock. There are a couple of more typical guitar-chaos-and-blastbeat passages such as the beginning of 'Impulses from the Sphere of Broken Larynx' and a section of 'Meandering through the Tunnel of Trance', and these passages actually work extremely well in setting up some contrasts with the otherwise melodic music on the album. There ar ealso extended sections with clean guitars as in 'The Trembling Eye' and 'Tongues', which have a certain Paradise Lost-feel to them.
Sometimes, the band even seem to play with the listener's genre-based expectations only to deliberately not fulfull them, as in a passage of 'The Cloven Psalmody' where all other instrumentation is silent while the guitar plays a simple tremolo riff – which obviously makes one expect it to be followed by a blastbeat section, but that is not what the listener gets. Instead, the band return to the midtempo paced main figure of that tune.
Chapter I is a strong album and shows that Ave Maria has a lot of potential to take their brand of melodic black metal very far. Despite the emphasis on melody and lack of black metal chaos, the sense of despair and bleakness that characterizes the genre remains, and I think that this release will appeal broadle both within and beyond the black metal fan community.
1. The Trembling Eye
2. Coitus Behind Moral Walls
3. Shining Toxic
4. The Cloven Psalmody
5. Among Them
6. Impulses from the Sphere of Broken Larynx
7. With Words Like Ecstasy
9. Meandering Through the Tunnel of Trance