For those of you who aren’t up on your Victorian-era British history, London experienced a major population boom during the early to mid-19th Century, which led to an interesting problem – a shortage of places to bury the increasing number of dead. As graveyards filled beyond capacity, multiple coffins were stacked in deepening graves and putrefying bodies were dumped into large pits in an attempt to make more room. It wasn’t uncommon for coffins to explode from the buildup of corpse gasses and start underground fires, and in some areas of London, the soil was so sodden with human decay that nothing would grow.
Enter into the picture Reverend W. Howse, a Baptist minister who presided at Enon Chapel from the time of its opening in April 1822 until his death in 1943. The chapel was built over an open sewer, and for the low price of fifteen shillings, the good reverend would intern bodies in the 60-by-40-foot vaults below. It’s estimated that the remains of somewhere between ten and twelve thousand bodies were stacked to the rafters in those vaults, left to either rot or be carried off to the Thames via the open sewer.
Of course, one cannot hide thousands of decaying corpses forever, and eventually, the city discovered what was going on, shut Enon Chapel down, and vaulted over the sewer with many of the bodies still inside. At that point, it was renamed Clare Market Chapel and used for tea dances by a group of religious teetotalers who incorporated the building’s morbid history into the themes for their events.
Given all that, it should come as very little surprise that Enon Chapel have a heavy dose of raw, reeking, lo-fi black metal in a similarly noxious vein as Bone Awl, Ildjarn, and the mighty Les Légiones Noires in their sound, along with a dash of early 80s British anarcho-punk. However, the duo behind the project aren’t exactly names one would necessarily associate with this style of black metal: Meghan Wood of Vault favorites Crown of Asteria and Balan of Botanist and Palace of Worms. The two have worked together before – most recently, Balan contributed mandolin to the title track of Crown of Asteria’s The Ire of a Bared Fang. However, Enon Chapel’s self-titled EP marks the first time they’ve collaborated on a full project, and after listening to it for the first time, I found myself wondering two things: what the fuck took them so long, and when can we expect a full-length?
The six songs on the EP delve even deeper into Balan and Wood’s shared interest in the darker aspects of Victorian history, including Jack the Ripper and the aforementioned burial crisis, and they infuse their music – from the tolling church bells that usher in opening track “Eldritch,” to the ambient/dungeon synth-esque coda of album closer “The Unscrupulous Reverend Howse” – with the same sort of putrescent atmosphere that nearly suffocated London’s gravediggers when the crisis was at its worst. Balan is in top form here, accenting some of the sharpest, most violent riffs he’s ever written with almost psychedelic-sound organ parts, and Wood contributes not only the most ominous vocals in her lengthy discography but several ripping (pun intended?) guitar solos as well.
We could not be more excited to be premiering the first song to be released from Enon Chapel here today at the Vault. “Miasma From the Charnel House” opens with a brief sample of a British television presenter saying “And the worst story of all is of Enon Chapel” and a squall of feedback, and then…well, I’ll let the band take it from here. When asked about the song, they offered:
The driving stomp of the opening moments of “Miasma From The Charnel House” plays out like a grotesque marriage between Ildjarn and Rudimentary Peni that eventually gives way to cold tremolo blasts and weird, church organ haunted avant-garde rock. The song was inspired by the chilling story of an early 19th-century illicit burial ground/dancing hall in London that housed thousands of unburied bodies within its basement, which were left to rot or to be dismembered and thrown in the sewers.
Enon Chapel will be available on February 1 both digitally and on limited edition cassette from Acephale Winter Productions. Grab a preorder here, then take a deep breath and dive into the “Miasma From the Charnel House” below.