Paul Chain – Alkahest

This review first appeared in print issue I of Ex Abyssō.

Paul Chain
Godhead, 1995

Paul Chain (Paolo Catena) is one of those relatively unknown heroes of metal. The poor man doesn’t even have his own English Wikipedia page. All the more reason to glance back occasionally at his solo œuvre, which spans almost 35 years now. The red thread in his works is doom metal of the old school, though Catena hasn’t shied away from experimental organ and synth works.

1995’s Alkahest stays mostly within the doom metal framework, but it is one of his most solid works in the genre. Catena’s trademarks are “purely phonetic” vocals, punchy riffs, and stellar guitar solos, all of which are on prime display here.

What takes the album to the next level are the small touches: rich organ interludes, subtleties of composition, and most importantly the guest vocals of Cathedral’s Lee Dorrian on the second half of the album. The movement from the psychedelic acoustics of “Lake Without Water” to the punishingly slow doom of “Sepulchral Life” sums up the craftsmanship of this album perfectly.

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