The History

Over the past few years, we have witnessed the re-formation and re-emergence of some great bands and artists from the 80’s and 90’s, many of them dropping new music either on par with or excelling beyond their back catalog. Galactic Cowboys (Long Way Back to the Moon), Lovewar (Lovewar), Eric Clayton/Saviour Machine (A Thousand Scars), Conception (State of Deception), Flood (Polarized) (with former members of Tourniquet), Detritus – (Myths), Fear Not (Fields of Sorrow), to name a few. While many of these are more well-known, there is one band from the early ‘90’s that has climbed seemingly out of obscurity – New Orleans-based prog/power metallers Thee Final Chaptre.

Thee Final Chaptre, as with many bands back in the 80’s, was born from the dissolution/transformation of 2 different bands – Deus Vult (1982) and Divine Right (New Orleans based) (1986). Gary Wilson (guitars/vocals/founder) originally intended for these bands to have Christian-based themes and play original music.

However, due to the club scene demand for cover bands in the mid ‘80’s, Deus Vult spent most of their time perfecting their showmanship, stage-sets and playing cover tunes from the likes of Maiden, Priest, Dio, etc.

Not surprisingly, the band split up due to differences in musical direction and in 1986 Wilson started his New Orleans version of Divine Right. Unfortunately, despite fielding a solid line-up of musicians and successfully producing a quality demo tape, Divine Right ended (without ever even stepping on a stage).

Finally, in 1989, as an 11th hour attempt inspired by the Holy Spirit, Wilson eventually found 3 other musicians – David Osbourn (drums/multi-instrumentalist), and after a few other change-ups Paul Starnes (bass) and Andrew “Tripp” Whittington (vocals) – to solidify what would become the appropriately named Thee Final Chaptre.

The Demo (W.E.I. Records, 1991)

This “final” line-up of Thee Final Chaptre would go on to record one of the best underground tapes of the early ‘90’s Christian melodic metal scene, It is Written. In Heaven’s Metal #32 (Nov/Dec 1991) editor Doug Van Pelt had this to say about the tape:

Taking on a straight-ahead metal sound with lots of vocals, Final Chapter reminds me of early Stryper heavy metal. Aggression is the oil that lubricates this band, from drummer David Osbourn down to the wailing vocals of Tripp Andrews. Of all the progressive metal custom. tapes received lately, this one is the most impressive, from the well-written songs to the good sonics to the full-color packaging. The guitar leads of Gary Wilson seem well thought out and they sound good.”

In addition to receiving much praise from fans and listeners around the nation, the 6-song demo succeeded in garnering interest from several labels, including Jaguar/Polygram, and introduced the potential for more widespread touring, videos on MTV and even a new release with new songs. Unfortunately, despite the success the band was experiencing with the music, things eventually fell apart in 1992.

However, this wasn’t “the final chapter” for the band…

It Is Written (2016 Divebomb Records)

Fast forward 25 years and Divebomb Records released a fantastic tribute to Thee Final Chaptre with the Deluxe Edition CD (pictured) version of the EP. It features the original 6 tracks plus “Just a Memory” (studio 2016) plus 9 live tracks. In addition, the 20-page booklet includes an extensive interview by Olaf Becker with Gary Michael Wilson, full lyrics to the 6 EP songs and pictures of tour/venue banners from the day.

The original songs, while digitally remastered, retain that warm analog sound with plenty of low-end push. Having these on digital format now just serves to highlight the professional quality of the original recording and performance.

 “Just a Memory” is the bonus acoustic song from 2016 (more on this later). The live tracks showcase the band’s skillful execution of their music in the real world. While the recording quality is fair to good (good vocal clarity, somewhat dynamic range and good separation of instruments in the mix), listeners can still appreciate what this band was able to deliver in a live setting and the tremendous potential they would have had if things had gone differently in their career.

While the reissue represented a tribute-sort-of-swansong for the band, this still wasn’t “the final chapter” …

So Let It Be Done (2022 Divebomb Records)

I will be the first to admit I didn’t see this coming – a reunion record (with new songs) from the four members who recorded a 6-song EP some 30 years ago, one which got them signed to a label (sort of) during an era when power metal/traditional metal was on the wane (well, unless you are a die-hard fan!). From my perspective, I call that a testament to God’s faithfulness and a band’s dedication to their calling … and a wealth of patience to boot!

Not surprisingly, the execution/performance is no less inspiring than the attempt/reunion itself. I can just imagine all the discussions leading up to this, the anticipation, the questions, maybe even the doubt? However, I would surmise – given the level of musicianship and professionalism this band exhibited during their brief shine – that in those discussions there was a unanimous overarching “we aren’t going to do this unless we do it right.”

In the context of Thee Final Chaptre (the era in which they thrived, struggled and performed) what exactly constitutes “doing it right?” How about something that is missing in so many studio releases these days – how about sounding like a band, like a bunch of musicians who love writing songs and playing live together. Check.

How about a quality, highly credible, recording worthy of the listener’s time and ears? Check. And how about a commitment to preserving the soundscape and lyrical vision of the original band? Check.

I would be remiss in this review if I didn’t address the “elephant in the room” – the album cover. Maybe just a bit familiar? Intentional or not, and similarities to Human Sacrifice aside, the medicus in me observes they also take the “hand” position to the crucifixion debate.

Back on point and purpose, straight-up, this album is excellent. First, the sound quality of the recording is primo – rich, full and no treble fatigue. This is a first-rate release, period. The 8-page booklet isn’t lush, but includes all the lyrics and credits.

Second, the vocals – while not straying into those wailing operatic ranges as often (but tastefully so on “Day After Day”) – are powerful and clear. Tripp Andrews doesn’t sound like he has aged 30 years, and all the guys in this band contribute vocals so there is plenty of diversity.

Third, the guitars shred. The riffs, the melodies, the solos – sweet.

Fourth, the bass shreds, very prominent in the mix ala Maiden, Accept, etc.

Fifth, the drums shred … ok well there is plenty of dynamic variation in the rhythms and a wonderful blend of prog and metal styles of drumming – an amalgam of speed, kick and punch. How’s that?

Sixth, this release represents a nice mix of songs (all updated) from the ’91 EP (“The Key,” “The Hallowed Hymn” and the aforementioned “Day After Day”), previously written but only performed live songs like “Wisdom’s Call,” “Edge of Sadness,” “Blood in the Sand” and “Whisper to Scream,” and newer material perhaps.

“Just a Memory” was included on the 2016 reissue of It is Written, and when I A/B this version to the 2016 version there is a tremendous difference. On this newer version the acoustic intro guitar is less caustic and the vocals less falsetto. The pace feels pulled back just a hair as well. Beautiful.

Otherwise, I would assume songs like the intro instrumental “Re-awakening” and the title track are new. I have never previously heard of “Into the Fire” and “Tomb of Wrath” but based on their style and lyrics feel completely consistent with everything the band has written to date that I’ve heard.

At this point I could talk about every song individually, but sometimes less is more. Suffice it to say, it’s all good – mega excellent, to be more precise.

In the final chapter, this is a fantastic prog/power metal release with inspiring and Christ-centric lyrics that will appeal to fans of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scarlet Rayne, early Queensryche, Oblivion Myth, Crimson Glory, Barren Cross, Recon, Dio, Blind Guardian, Haven, Eden’s Curse, Stryper, Jacobs Dream, Inner Wish, Diviner, Pyramaze, Angra, New Eden, Stairway, Theocracy, Primal Fear … you get the point!

1. Re-Awakening (1:25)

2. So Let It Be Done (6:50)

3. The Key (4:31)

4. Tomb Of Wrath (5:13)

5. Wisdom’s Call (4:57)

6. Day After Day (3:25)

7. The Edge Of Sadness (4:59)

8. Into The Fire (4:25)

9. Just A Memory (4:23)

10. Blood In The Sand (3:49)

11. Whisper To Scream (4:15)

12. The Hallowed Hymn (9:09)

Divebomb Records

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