Band’s breakup makes way for side project’s rise

Chapter 14 could only exist as the end result of the disbandment of the metal-core band Destroy the Runner.

Allusionary · Chapter 14’s debut release, Like Trees In November, takes thematic and design influence from the book Watership Down. - Photos courtesy of The Muse Box

Vocalist Chad Ackerman and guitarist/bassist/drummer Tanner Sparks — former members of a number of popular bands such as As I Lay Dying, Die Trying  and Austrian Death Machine — originally started the band as a side project but failed to find backing. When Destroy the Runner offered them spots to replace departing members, Chapter 14 went on hiatus.

Now, Ackerman and Sparks are focusing on Chapter 14 full time.

Their new EP, Like Trees In November, presents a full-fledged peek into new emotional American rock ‘n’ roll. The sound is derived from a number of different influences that span the genre: everything from Metallica to Queen can be heard in the same songs.

The tropes of this genre’s trademark sound seem to be a fusion of metallic drums and base sound with extremely gentle and personal lyrics and melodies. The pairing of high energy with these soft emotions brings to mind an almost Christian rock-like sense of grief and absolution.

Ackerman’s vocals are high-reaching and well-executed. He lifts off with every line, creating songs that are easily distinguishable thanks to his, one-of-a-kind voice.

The band’s esoteric names, both for itself and the album, come from Ackerman’s favorite book, Watership Down by English author Richard Adams. The novel follows a group of rabbits that face death and destruction while looking for a safe home.

Chapter 14 of the novel, titled “Like Trees In November,” depicts rabbits trying to persuade their friends to leave the farm they live on in order to flee from a farmer bent on destroying them. Unable to convince them, the rabbits are forced to flee knowing that they’ve left their fellow rabbits to certain doom.

These themes creep into the sound and lyrics of the album. Ackerman often sings of frustrating love and the strength of hope in the face of impending disaster. Unsettling, screamed vocals are often interspersed with soft melodies, giving listeners the idea of a great pressure between one’s inner and outer self in the album’s story.

A lot of emo-rock — like many artistic movements — focuses on alienation and a sense of separation from the rest of the world. There’s a sense of damaged love, unrequited yearning and isolation, coalesced into an entire image of a past.

Albums like this one always seem to present an aesthetic of reflection, as if everything that could happen in the world has. These records live and die by the vocalist’s ability to convey the themes. Ackerman’s powerful vocals not only get the message across but put them right in the listener’s face.

Even though it is only releasing its first record, Chapter 14 has already done two full U.S. tours in the past. Ackerman said that the band had a following but never had the chance to record until now.

This allowed the band members to get a sense of what works, letting them revise their approach and oeuvre before actually putting together an album. Instead of a rushed, undeveloped sound, Chapter 14 was able to include some of its newer influences into the album for this reason.

Bands that have an opportunity to hone new music on tour or in small shows always seem to produce a better product. The Doors used to do that, playing future albums every night in Hollywood clubs until the band had tweaked its sound enough to near-perfection.

Like Trees In November has that polished feel of well-thought-out movement and motions through the languid texture of the songs. None of it seems ad hoc or haphazard.

A lot of the album features recognizable guitar and drum progressions. There’s that somewhat distorted power chord pick-up sound, where you can imagine Ackerman lifting his fingers lightly on his guitar strings to make it fuzzy.

What’s most attractive about the album is Ackerman and Sparks’ enthusiasm. Knowing their excitement for the new project makes it twice as enjoyable for fans because they know they are hearing pure soul. Chapter 14 is a band that will find a niche in the emo-rock audience, especially appealing to those who love that arched and troubled sound reminiscent of Ackerman and Sparks’ previous projects and influences.

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