With a style that reminds me quite a bit of The Decemberists with their folk/pop blend, Chamber Band manages to bring the enchanted world of Dungeons & Dragons to life in their debut album Deities. I can truthfully say I’ve never heard songs written about alignment, Raise Dead, magic items, and so much more be brought to my ears in such a pleasing way. Somehow they’ve combined modern musical styles and influences with one of my favorite pastimes to the point that I can almost imagine hearing some of these songs slipping onto the radio waves, and that makes me almost dance a jig like I was wearing the cursed Boots of Dancing!
Chamber Band formed in 2011 with Chris Littler on vocals and guitar, Anthony Cerretani on bass, Ellen Winter on vocals, Sam Monaco on drums, and Andrew Sarrion on keyboards. They hail from Brooklyn and have been busy promoting their album among music-loving geeks at Comic-Con and elsewhere for the last few months. The album itself is a collection of 12 tracks combining their love of D&D and music in a variety of styles worthy of the bardic tradition. The constant through all the tunes? Each one tells a story.
Honestly I’m pretty sure I’d likely listen to the album even if there weren’t references to iconic deities, rules, and items in all the lyrics. I only recently discovered The Decemberists and songs like “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” which now holds a strange, wonderful place in the ongoing soundtrack of my life. And though Chamber Band’s songs are not quite as dark or demented as “Mariner’s Revenge,” there’s definitely a kindred storytelling spirit and musical style that connects them together.
Deities begins with “Lawful Neutral,” about a girl struggling for balance, perhaps failing and falling more towards the evil than the good. As the lyrics say, “She was wrong in trying to be right/She was lawful to be neutral unaware that she was evil.” I can’t help but feel there’s more to the story of this song than we get in the lyrics themselves, but the music jives along so forcefully with a strong drum and bass beat that I also couldn’t help but tap my foot in time.
My favorite song is “Constitution,” which has to do with a hero whose love has him resurrected each time he falls while adventuring. Poor guy loses his head to a wight, then against Baphomet and other powerful foes. Such dedication is rarely seen in a relationship: “Oh Wee Jas/I pray on you to brace my lover for my loss/She couldn’t know that loving me would have such costs.” And this one is driven again by a cheerful drum and guitar beat that somehow works for the happiness found in the strange romance.
And “God of Greed” tells the story of an adventuring party and the trials suffered before they returned home once again. This one, of all of the tracks on the album, reminds me of a song I’d hear from a bard in some small tavern. It’s an epic tale of fighting trolls and manticores in the hopes of treasure and fame. By the end, I was singing along in my head, “Go on, go on, go on, go on without me/You know I’m only slowing down the party.”
Through it all, there are names dropped from D&D adventures and worlds past and present: Asmodeus, Oldimmara, Tiamat, Ehlonna, and so much more. Each time I heard a name, I smiled a little broader. The whole album is fun and well performed, which is all I could possibly ask of such an endeavor.