For the record, I am a huge devotee of seminal horror literary H.P. Lovecraft. The famed creator of the Cthulhu Mythos, and a dedicated publisher of numerous short stories, Lovecraft has gone on to influence many with his tales of cosmic horror and occultic presence. One of my favorite short tales by the author is that of "The Music of Erich Zann." In it, our quiet narrator moves into a squalid section of a French villa; the apartment tenant above him plays some very odd music on the viol. Frequently disturbed by the sounds of shrieking strings above him, the narrator finds by story's end that musician Erich Zann is heavily involved in the occult, and the only thing keeping him from being sucked into the infinite void of doom by paranormal entities is his viol playing, which our narrator disturbs. Zann is of course horribly devoured by the creature from the great beyond, and the story ends.
I highlighted this tale as that level of frantic, gloomy orchestration drips off of this amazing musical project, Chamber of Sorrows. Formed and conceived by sole member John Shamus Gaffney in late 2003, Chamber of Sorrows is a morbid orchestra of doom, despair, melancholy, redemption, and even a sort of Gothic hope. It is doom music at its most ancient and noble roots; that of piano, orchestral strings, and folk guitar. There are few vocals (more on that later) but this disc easily survives on the mournful dirge of pulsing bass and quivering strings that it usually entails. It is a crypt symphony, a gloom opera, and everything you could want in pure, wholly pained Gothic music. The best part (the likes of which lack in other similar bands) is that Chamber of Sorrows has the unique ability to focus on your sadness and enlighten it, rather than bring it further down into the pit of hopelessness. Like the aforementioned Erich Zann, this is the sound of strings warding off very bad things in our lives. Unlike Lovecraft's doomed character, Chamber of Sorrows has an aura about its debut disc that will make you think the music (and not the monster) will prevail.
The first song the Chamber of Sorrows ever recorded opens the demo. "Prayers for the Dying" was originally meant to be a cut Gaffney could show to his friends as a sort of surprise; here, the disc maintains that mystique of the unknown. Thick, slithering bass is draped over the listener like a funeral shroud; just as things get too gloomy, the tune switches tempos with a moment or two of quiet notes followed by a soaring crescendo. "Guardians of the Gate" tolls with bell-like solemnity, while dark flourishes of sweeping grace crash and swell. The best part of the song is Gaffney's voice; the man emits a raspy hiss that fits the eerie mood of the song. The insanely mellow "Eyes of Stone" is somber bass slaps, slow and patient. At first I wasn't able to like it, but as time wore on I noticed tiny things nestled in the flow of the song that make it a diamond in the rough. Gaffney whispers in barely audible sighs here, and this is a really great song to drift off to sleep with....until "Flight of the Dragon" wakes your muddled senses up! "Dragon" is so layered with lush strings and morose atmospherics, one can almost swear they're listening to the burial of an European lord.
The majestic "Hour of Darkness" couldn't be any more perfect. Mixing ambient samples of rainfall with foreboding, grim orchestrations, the song winds through passage after passage of expert string-work. The jangling bounce of the kingly "Denial" sounds every bit as stubborn as its name implies; harried strings and wispy effects mix as a strong melody journeys over the remains of both.
"Deliverance" is a weird interlude meshing epic, pulsing chords and creepy chants. Tolling chimes ring as a multitude of voices howl unknown words, and it leads to one to the best song on the entire album. The Victorian bliss of "For An Angel Shall Watch Over Me" couldn't be any more perfect. It seems that the Chamber of Sorrows would not have been complete sans bleak piano, slinking bass strings, and pure, angelic rhapsody. Grandiose and elegant, a man couldn't close an album of this nature better in any way. I'm certain this release will be off the beaten path for some of you. Expand your tastes and try it out; Chamber of Sorrows could very well be going places someday. Since early 2004 when I first heard the mp3s on www.soundclick.com, the Chamber has shot to the top of three separate soundclick charts (Gothic, Metal, and Orchestra) and had well over 40,000 downloads on that site. As of press time, the act is currently looking at going live (session musicians will join Gaffney should this plan be feasible) and a new record deal with Oak-Knoll Records find the band re-releasing this now sold-out demo with extra tracks come Summer 2006. Epic, fantastical, and beautiful, the Chamber of Sorrows is a room well worth entering.
Chamber of Sorrows Tracks
1. Prayers for the Dying
2. Guardians of the Gate
3. Eyes of Stone
4. Flight of the Dragon
5. The Hour of Darkness
8. For An Angel Shall Watch Over Me