Always, always, always read the liner notes. That’s the message to take from Brainticket’s reissue of Last Chapter’s The Living Waters, which was originally released by the label in 1997. Not only by doing so will you find out that the band almost broke up before putting out their debut album, but you’ll learn a valuable life-lesson that could save you time, money and a lot of frustration down the line.
That lesson? Never have Robert Lowe sing on your demo and expect to find someone that good again.
Last Chapter, based in Arlington, TX, did indeed employ the Solitude Aeturnus vocalist for their original four-track outing in 1993, and it would be another three to four years before they realized that no one else would rate and asked him, with the help of Brainticket head and Solitude Aeturnus guitarist John Perez, to come back and sing on what would become The Living Waters. The way drummer Jason Spradlin tells it in the liner notes, Last Chapter almost broke up from the disappointment of trying to find someone to fill those shoes after the demo. Well of course they did! Basically if you’re not calling up Ronnie James Dio circa 1983 and telling him to come on over, Robert Lowe is as good a metal singer as you’re going to find. In the lineup roster, it lists him as “Honored Guest Vocals.” Damn right.
Those who haven’t yet discerned from the people involved in making this record happen should know to expect some heavy-ass traditional doom. The Christian leanings of the lyrics — penned mostly by Spradlin and or guitarist Darrin Davis, though “Dimensions” is a Lowe composition — are veiled enough not to be directly off-putting, and the guitars of Davis and Cody Griffith are rife with riffs that are sure to elicit much approving nodding. It ain’t Trouble’s Trouble, but nothing is, and as the album progresses, there are subtle flairs of individuality that peek through, like the nuanced synth work of Bill Pohl, which adds an ethereal (if dated) aspect to instrumental cuts like “The Living Waters,” “A Warning Never Heard,” and the album intro “H Sequence.” Last Chapter weren’t reinventing the doom wheel, but they did offer a few killer cuts like “Thorn of Creation,” “In the Wake of Delusion” and the aforementioned “Dimensions,” which although Lowe’s vocals are way too high in the mix during the chorus is an unexpected sub-psychedelic left turn that does well in its place to set up the closing duo “A Warning Never Heard” and “Things to Come.”
Interestingly, the band’s original demo is included on this reissue (as well as a cover of “Escape,” which was originally included on a Dwell Records tribute to Metallica), so we get to hear “The Belated,” “In the Wake of Delusion,” “Things to Come” and “Thorn of Creation” in their original form. Having listened through, I’ll say it’s no wonder they couldn’t find someone to fill the vocalist slot. From Lowe on down through bassist Terri Pritchard and Spradlin, everyone sounds hungry, and in the rawer demo form, that comes out as all the more immediate in the songs. Trying to find someone to front the band in a way that elicited the same kind of energy would have been impossible. It’s a good thing they got back with Lowe to make the album.
Last Chapter did have one more record after The Living Waters — 2002’s Paths to Always (also Brainticket) — but by Spradlin’s own admission, this is the one that counts. For doom hounds, the accompanying demo might be even more recommended than the album itself, but both make for a quality listen despite the fact that neither is really a genre landmark. Lowe fans don’t need to be told he gives an excellent performance throughout, and for many people that will be enough, but the band surrounding him does an admirable job keeping up to his level, and that says something in itself. Just remember as you listen through, the liner notes are there for a reason.
Tags: Arlington, Brainticket, Last Chapter, Texas