In these weird, trying times, where everything feels like its fraught with worry and anxiety, people hoarding toilet paper and ransacking the groceries for no good reason, I thought I’d take a step back today and review a piece of music that wasn’t punishing and filled with gore and terror. A new album came out recently that is plenty dark and plenty creepy, with lots of bone-marrow chills to go with it. But it isn’t heavy and it certainly isn’t going to blow your speakers. It’s the first solo album by Jonathan Hulten and it’s called “Chants From Another Place.”
Who is Jonathan Hulten, you ask? He’s one of the guitarists from the metal band Tribulation, who has released a couple of classic Death Metal albums as well as two dark rock death goth albums. If you haven’t listened to any of them, please do, they are excellent. Hulten has now released an album full of acoustic folk that is at once enchanting and beautiful as it is melancholic and dark. There is nary a heavy track here and that’s more than okay. This is music meant for reflection, to listen to as the sun rises or as it sets, to talk a walk through the woods to. It is infused with folk magick, full of the occult, the obscured and mysterious, even as it is emotionally bare and honest.
This isn’t some tossed-off acoustic thing. There has been tremendous care and thought put into this, every song full of layers, from the backing vocals to the added effects. This is truly a solo work, as Hulten does all of the music himself, including the cover art. This is a pure expression of what he was intending to say. The most amazing thing about it is that it doesn’t feel repetitive and never gets old. That’s a hard thing to say about folk/acoustic albums like this. Too many artists just record the same song over and over to fill a record, each composition of the same pace, feel, and temerity. But not so with this work. Every song feels unique and individual, yet they weave together to form a composite whole.
A lot here reminds me of Opeth back on “Damnation,” if you strip out the prog and just keep the acoustics. Although Hulten has a much stronger and expressive voice than Akerfeldt (which is no insult to Akerfeldt) and it shines through with more confidence. There are other comparisons you could make, to artists such as Hexvessel and Wovenhand, but Hulten is his own person, and his expressions are unique and compelling. Take for instance a song like “Next Big Day.” It is a bit jaunty and happy, and the vocals remind me of Big Country in an odd way, and that’s meant as a total compliment. There’s movement to the song, it doesn’t just sit still and be somewhat glum; it moves. And that’s what’s so good and vital about the entire record: it moves.
“A Dance in the Road,” a perfect opener that sets the table for what is to come. European and dark, folk that tells a story, layered with thrumming harmonies and light string touches. It feels like the beginning of a journey.
“The Call to Adventure,” adding soft drumming, this echoes with epic feels, big and booming and yet gentle as a mountain stream. This calls to fantasy elements, adding some prog touches to lift it up and make it unique to the surrounding songs and yet just another piece of fabric woven into the whole.
“Outskirts” has that acoustic Zeppelin feel, those dark, in-between sounds that Page was so masterful at conjuring. They make the song feel otherworldly, and special, apart from “normal” music. Delicate, as much of the album, but also decidedly dark and winsome before expansively opening into a wide clearing.
It goes on and on, song after song working together to form a cohesive whole. This is an album of longing, of hurt, of journeying, and finally of healing. It’s about finding yourself in the darkness and coming to peace with that. At the same time, it is never condescending or touchy-feely. It’s so honest that it can almost be unnerving. And through the whole work, there is that undercurrent of chilling Fate.
I think you’ll find this one transporting you to different worlds. It’s perfect for time alone, a stroll through the woods, for lying on your bed as the sun sets and darkness spreads. In other words, it’s a perfect album for solitude, and God knows, we’re all going to have a lot more of that on our hands in the coming days.
Four Buckets of Blood out of Four
Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews, he likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh. He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website: www.kellymhudson.com