Charnel House – Contagion

First off, just so you know, the artwork there is taken from the fold-out poster inside with the CD, which is superb. That being said, let it be known, the concept behind Charnel House is awesome.  It’s a great idea, because nothing is better than mixing beauty with dissonance, especially the quality of dissonance found in Contagion.  Charnel House is relatively unknown, with only a smattering of information about them to be found anywhere.  Coming from Indiana, their purpose is to create sounds combining jazz and avant-garde metal, which we’ve certainly seen around here more than once.  Mix that with an occult presence, and hey, great concept, absolutely stellar, in fact.  Nothing beats the dark, and we love that kind of thing.  We hadn’t heard anything before Contagion, even though it was released one year prior to their latest, Black Blood.  Before you go that route, since we only have a single sample track for you, just listen, okay?  Listen for once and read this, God damn it.  Contagion almost sucks.  There we go.  How?  Why?  What caused us to get to this position?  Let us explain by first providing a sample track.



The idea behind Contagion is awesome, let’s repeat that once more.  Charnel House delivers absolutely decrepit dissonance as their modus operandi.  It’s their preferred weapon, wielded like an aged serial killer who was never caught, and never stopped.  Sound is specifically developed via decayed guitars, pulsing drums that turn blast beats into a thing of art, and what sounds like various field recordings of some nature.  The guitars and drums create the primary canvas on which their songs flow, and flow they do, like coagulated blood in a humid room.  Some of the sounds on Contagion are disgusting, the best kind too.  You roll around in filth like this when no one is looking, and when they find you there, as you are, you keep rolling.  It’s such a defined tone it could probably stand entirely on its own without any necessity in vocals of any sort.  But that’s where it falls apart.


Charnel House, if you listen to prior work, sound practically the same in everything they’ve currently released.  You have the same corroded guitars and usage of blast beats in novel ways.  However, of course, novel is novel so long as it’s new, when it’s overused, it’s stagnant.  So, let us correct ourselves in saying that, whoops, actually this music couldn’t stand on its own, it absolutely needs killer vocals to surround the listener.  And to do so, the formula to apply is simple: make them atmospheric, sweeping, horrid, but yet beautiful, like a gypsy witch twirling in front of the embers of a sacrificial fire.  The sad thing here is the vocals aren’t of the “blah, it sucks” variety, they’re more of the “oh God, it hurts” variety.  The vocalist, who appears to call herself ‘Hellfire,’ has the echo and effects down, they’re a go.  But the problem she sings with absolute dissonance, so much that the listener is overwhelmed.  What it needs is at least some moments of beauty, but that requires an excellent command of tones, which she seems to not possess.  It might be possible, but instead of caterwauling without thinking about it, she needs to put some thought, and possibly emotion, into her throat before she moans another tune.  Literally, that’s what she does, every song.  It sounds like a young girl waking up from dental surgery and one of the most irritating forms of vocal delivery we’ve heard around here.  Give those vocals some beauty to make them really bleed our ears dry.


Charnel House Official Facebook

Written by Stanley Stepanic

Charnel House – Contagion
SYGIL Records
3.5 / 5