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Eternal Elysium, Resonance of Shadows: Experiential Benefit

Posted in Reviews on January 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

eternal elysium resonance of shadows

It does not take long into Eternal Elysium‘s Resonance of Shadows for one to realize they stand in the presence of masters. The long-running Japanese outfit, comprised of vocalist Tana Haugo, guitarist/vocalist/founder Yukito Okazaki and drummer Antonio Ishikawa offer the 2016 release as their sixth full-length, and it arrives some 20 years after the band made their debut with 1996’s Faithful. American audiences might recall their 2000 sophomore outing, Spiritualized D, and its 2002 follow-up, Share, were released on MeteorCity. It’s now been over seven years since they offered their last long-player in 2009’s Within the Triad, but they’ve stayed reasonably active with shorter outings, their Highflyer EP and a split with SardoniS both surfacing in 2012. Some of the material on Resonance of Shadows (issued through Cornucopia Records dates back to the era of Within the Triad as well, with “Views on C#” and “Unbound” having appeared on 2008’s Mysterious Views in Stone Garden EP and the aforementioned SardoniS split, respectively.

As such, one might wonder from whence the rest of the eight-track/56-minute collection comes — cuts like the boogieing “Cosmic Frequency,” the more-Pentagram-than-Pentagram opener “Ingah,” the classically rocking “The Breeze Says Go” and the slow-paced crusher “Hiroshima” — but it ultimately matters little for the kind of doom and heavy rock Eternal Elysium proffer, which is about as close to timeless as the style gets in its incorporation of influences modern and old. These songs could’ve been sitting around for years, and who cares? Not like they’re going to age. In their rolling nod, fullness of tone, interplay of Japanese and English-language lyrics and easy shifts between upbeat and downer atmospheres, Resonance of Shadows conveys the years of experience at work behind Eternal Elysium while never sounding staid or overly composed. It’s heavy rock and roll for the converted, and the rest be damned.

Laying out such sonic ultimatums is one thing, and a lot of bands do it, but to actually have the material to stand behind them is rare. As such, the more one digs into Resonance of Shadows, whether it’s the immersive lumber of “Unbound” or the catchy Sabbathism of the penultimate “The Ancient Soul” — to my regret, I speak roughly zero Japanese, and I’ve still had that hook stuck in my head for the last week — the further one is taken by its methods, its subtle fluidity that draws together a full-album flow across standout individual pieces, and the natural clarity in Eternal Elysium‘s sound. Not unreasonable after so many years for them to know what they want from a recording, and with Okazaki working as producer, engineer and mixer at Studio Zen in Nagoya, the command they show is most definitely their own from the tones they capture in “Ingah” onward, but on a pure execution level, the apex that “Ingah” hits in its second half is particularly affecting.

And while it doesn’t set up all the sonic shifts that will play out across Resonance of Shadows, starting immediately with the shuffle of “The Breeze Says Go” and continuing through the memorial bells that launch “Hiroshima,” it does step forth as an excellent lead-in to them. More over, one that a lesser band wouldn’t be able to wield with such grace. To look at Resonance of Shadows as two halves, each with four tracks — though vinyl invariably wouldn’t split that way given extended runtimes in back end — it seems to bring shorter rockers like “Ingah” and “Cosmic Frequency” and “The Breeze Says Go” while letting the seven-minute “Hiroshima” (which breaks into a faster rush in its own second half, churning to an instrumental crescendo that serves as one of the record’s finest) work to foreshadow the doomly plays throughout the instrumental “Views on C#,” the ultra-grooving “Unbound” and the spacious closing pair of “The Ancient Soul” and “Sekibaku.”

The truth of Eternal Elysium‘s scope, however, is more complex, and Resonance of Shadows isn’t nearly so binary. As much as “Unbound”(8:49) and “The Ancient Soul” (9:17) take their time to patiently flesh out ideas, they’re not lazy in doing so, and among the album’s principal achievements is how organically it crosses the sometimes vast divide between doom and heavy rock, so that the languid, rich low end, echoing lead guitar and open spaces of “Sekibaku” feel no less appropriate here than the march of “Unbound” or the mournfulness of “Hiroshima” earlier. Setting up multiple contexts and moving swiftly between them, the three-piece are able to harness a vitality that works as the thread tying everything together, and accordingly, they allow their material to go where it seems it wants to go without having the push of “Cosmic Frequency” are out of place next to the aughts-style stonerism of “Views on C#,” or for that matter, anything lose a step feeding into anything else.

“The Ancient Soul” and “Sekibaku” underscore this triumph, but again, it’s evident from “Ingah” onward, and the argument that Eternal Elysium make in favor of conversion, “never so blatant as “drop out of life with bong in hand,” is no less convincing. To call them underappreciated feels like understatement, and thinking of how one might approach Resonance of Shadows as a fan come to the genre since 2009 who is maybe taking on the band for the first time, the best way I can think of is as a blueprint for how heavy rock and roll and doom should sound when done right. No pretense, fluid boundaries and songwriting at a paramount. Recommended.

Eternal Elysium, “Ingah”

Eternal Elysium on Thee Facebooks

Eternal Elysium on Twitter

Eternal Elysium BigCartel store

Cornucopia Records website

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The Top 20 of 2016 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top 20 year end poll results

The poll is closed, the results are counted and the top 20 albums of 2016 have been chosen. Hard to argue with the list as it’s shown up over the course of the past month, so I won’t try. Instead, let me just say thanks to incredible amount of participants who contributed this year.

All told, between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, 612 people added their picks to the proceedings, compared to 388 in last year’s poll. Considering how much that number blew my mind on Jan. 1, 2016, I’m sure you can imagine how I feel about adding another 200-plus lists to the pot. In short, I’m astounded, deeply humbled and so, so, so grateful. I feel like we got enough of a sampling this year to give a genuinely representative showing for where people’s heads have been at, so thank you if you were a part of it.

Thank you as well as always to Slevin for running the poll’s back end and tabulating the results. As ever, the weighting system is one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. You’ll find that list (plus some honorable mentions) below, followed by the raw-vote tally.

And after the jump, as has become the tradition, are the full lists of everyone who submitted, alphabetized by name. I’m in there too. It’s a huge amount to wade through, and even if you thought you heard everything in 2016, it should be more than enough to keep you busy for the next year.

One last note: I’m no statistician. Please allow for these numbers to change over the next couple days on some small level.

Let’s go:

Top 20 of 2016 — Weighted Results

wo fat midnight cometh

1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (375 points)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (368)
3. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (324)
4. Asteroid, III (302)
5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (295)
6. Gozu, Revival (274)
7. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires (253)
8. King Buffalo, Orion (244)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (238)
10. Conan, Revengeance (232)
11. Cough, Still They Pray (228)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (218)
13. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (213)
14. Truckfighters, V (206)
15. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (200)
16. Khemmis, Hunted (192)
16. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (192)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (181)
18. Witchcraft, Nucleus (174)
19. Opeth, Sorceress (173)
20. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (159)

Honorable mention to:
Causa Sui, Return to Sky (157)
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (157)
Black Mountain, IV (148)
Mos Generator, Abyssinia (144)
Wretch, Wretch (140)

Look at those tallies for number one and two. That race was close all month. Wo Fat kept out front for the most part, but Greenleaf kept it interesting and Elephant Tree’s debut snuck in there at third, which I love to see, both because it’s their first album and because that record was indeed so great. King Buffalo, another debut, also made the top 10, underscoring those two as bands to watch, and though Brant Bjork, Conan, Asteroid, Neurosis, Gozu and Mars Red Sky might be more expected names, they still certainly delivered excellent records, so again, nothing to fight with here. Things flesh out a bit in the 10-20 range, but I don’t think there’s one album on this list you could call is “miss.”

Top 20 of 2016 — Raw Votes

wo fat midnight cometh

1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (109)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (92)
3. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (87)
4. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (82)
5. Asteroid, III (80)
6. Gozu, Revival (76)
7. Conan, Revengeance (73)
8. Cough, Still They Pray (70)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (68)
10. King Buffalo, Orion (67)
11. Truckfighters, V (62)
12. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (61)
13. Khemmis, Hunted (60)
14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (59)
14. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (59)
15. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (58)
16. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (53)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (49)
17. Witchcraft, Nucleus (49)
18. Opeth, Sorceress (47)
19. Mos Generator, Abyssinia (45)
20. Black Mountain, IV (44)
20. Causa Sui, Return to Sky (44)
20. Wretch, Wretch (44)

Honorable mention to:
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (43)
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light (43)
Geezer, Geezer (41)
Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies (41)
Gojira, Magma (37)
Slomatics, Future Echo Returns (36)
Graves at Sea, The Curse that Is… (35)
Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy (33)
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae (32)
Vokonis, Olde One Ascending (31)

Left a few more honorable mentions in the raw-vote count, just for fun and so you could get more of a feel beyond the top 20 itself, which you’ll notice has a couple ties in it as the raw votes usually do and reorganizes a bit from the weighted results. One and two remain the same, however, and in the same order, and you’ll see Wo Fat was the only album that scored more than 100 votes on its own. As a whole, there were over 2,400 separate entries for albums this year, which is by far the most spread out that the voting has ever been. Frankly, with so many people involved and such a variety of stuff being voted on, I’m amazed anyone managed to agree on anything at all, but of course they did and once again a stellar list is the result.

Well, Happy New Year.

Before I go, thanks again to Slevin for the work put into running the back end of this site and this poll particularly. I show up with the finish lists, but it’s his code that makes it happen, and his efforts are appreciated more than I can say. Dude has never asked me for anything in the nearly eight years I’ve been a constant pain in his ass.

After the jump, you’ll find everybody’s list, alphabetized by name. Please enjoy browsing. I hope you find something awesome, because there’s certainly plenty in there that qualifies, and if you see something that looks like it appears often enough that it should be included in one or both of the counts above, let me know in the comments.


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Sithter to Release Chaotic Fiend Dec. 9

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 18th, 2016 by JJ Koczan


Japanese extreme sludgers Sithter will release their second full-length, Chaotic Fiend, through Bonten Records on Dec. 9. Ahead of the album coming out, they’re set to hit the road next month alongside Serbian doomers Heretic Rites for a week-long string of shows in Japan, and ahead of that, they have the new song “Masque of the Black Death” streaming now. If you think that’s a lot of preparing the ground, I can’t argue, but as you can hear in the new track, it’s weighted, coated in filth and stripped raw enough to make one think that the ground — and the audience’s eardrums — might need some preparation. All the better they’re getting it.

Preorders are up now through the label. The PR wire fills in the details:


Japan’s sonic death sludge masters SITHTER to release new album Chaotic Fiend | Stream and share new song ‘Masque Of The Black Death’

Chaotic Fiend by Sithter is released on 9th December through Bonten Records, pre-order here:

Originally formed in 2006 under the name PsychoToBlack, after numerous personnel changes, a handful of filed missing person reports and a ritual or two in the black arts, Tokyo’s Sithter eventually emerged, dragged into sunlight.

Influenced by the traditional sludge metal of bands like Grief, Eyehategod and Buzzoven, after leaving his previous outfit MONE¥I$GOD in 2007, guitarist Hyö “Noise Fucker” Kagawa brought with him experiments in doom and dark psychedelia, alongside drummer Takefumi Matsuda and vocalist/guitarist Hiroyuki Takano. Completed by the arrival of newest member Wahei Gotoh on bass in 2013 – kidnapped from the heavy cosmic rock band Dhidalah – the quartet quickly became masters of the “Sonic Death Sludge” sound.

Following the release of 2009’s The Last Temptation EP, their first full-length album Evilfucker on the Russian doom label Bad Road Records and a split with Seoul-based death metal trio Gonguri last year, this December will see the release of Chaotic Fiend on Bonten Records. The inaugural taste of which can be sampled via the track ‘Masque Of The Black Death’, a poisonous and molasses thick assault on all senses.

Sithter also tour Japan this November with Serbian doom rockers Heretic Rites (for the full list of dates see below) ahead of the release of Chaotic Fiend on 9th December.

Japan tour with Heretic Rites:
23 Nov – Sendai Bird Land w. Magdalene Junen, Bergrabnis + More
25 Nov – Higashikouenji 20000V w. Magdalene Junen, King Goblin + Zothique
26 Nov – Oosaka Sengoku-Daitoryou w. Magdalene Junen, Necromantics, W.D.L.K. + Hemipenis
27 Nov – Nagoya Red Dragon w. Magdalene Junen, Vomit Monster, Viollante + Stone Banquet
29 Nov – Yokohama El Puente w. Su19b + Floaters
30 Nov – Shibuya Ruby Room w. Khola Cosmica + Dhidalah

Track Listing:
1. Chaotic Fiend
2. I Drink Your Blood
3. Smoke Demon
4. Masque Of The Black Death
5. Lost Flowers
6. Empire
7. Punisher #13
8. Engrave The Misery
9. Jerusalem Axe Massacre

Hyö Kagawa – Guitar
Wahei Gotoh – Bass
Takefumi Matsuda – Drums
Hiroyuki Takano – Vocals, Guitar

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Boris to Tour UK & Europe playing Pink in Full

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

I don’t know when the last time you listened to BorisPink was — maybe you picked up the Sargent House deluxe 10th anniversary reissue and paid it another visit that way — but the record is still as unhinged, vital and brilliant as it was a decade ago when it served as the Japanese trio’s breakout record to wider American critical consciousness, the foundation having been laid by earlier outings like Absolutego, Heavy Rocks, Flood and Akuma no Uta. Pink would become a launch point for a host of offerings, Smile, Chapter Ahead Being Fake, etc., that continued developing their avant garde heavy rock to the point where it is now, where just about nothing from J-pop to atmospheric drone is off limits.

They’ll tour the UK and EU playing Pink in its entirety in November/December. Sounds like a good show. Dates follow, courtesy of the PR wire:


BORIS announce EU & UK tour performing Pink album in its entirety

10th anniversary Pink (Deluxe Edition) reissue out now on Sargent House worldwide (excluding Japan)

Japanese trio Boris today announce that they will bring their just completed North American tour Boris Performing Pink to Europe and the UK this Fall. The band is touring in support of the 10th anniversary Pink (Deluxe Edition) reissue, released in July on Sargent House. Please see current dates below.

Pink, the landmark 2006 album by Boris, which earned widespread critical praise, was reissued in an expanded edition for the album’s 10th anniversary.

The deluxe 3xLP box set and 2xCD features an entire album of previously unreleased tracks recorded during the Pink album sessions in 2004-2005. The bonus Forbidden Songs collects 9 tracks of the same hyperactive, accessible and aggressive caliber of the original album, available here for the first time, mixed (with additional editing and arrangement) in 2015 and mastered in January 2016.

In 2006, Pink was Boris’ 10th album and a major breakthrough that earned new fans outside of the underground metal community — the track “Farewell” was even featured in Jim Jarmusch’s classic film The Limits of Control. The album landed on countless “best of the year” lists from underground metal sites to mainstream rock magazines. And the praise was certainly well deserved for its more accessible sound and explorations into shoegaze and ambient structures alongside brutal noise, searing psychedelia and apocalyptic doom.

Boris is now in their 24th year as a band — 20 years in the classic trio lineup — and showing no signs of slowing down. They have always demolished expectations of what a band can do musically and aesthetically. And in looking back with Pink (Deluxe Edition), the band’s trajectory as experimenters and innovators over subsequent releases becomes even clearer.

11/18 Helsinki, FI @ Tavastia
11/20 Stockholm, SE @ Debaser Strand
11/21 Oslo, NO @ Bla
11/22 Gothenburg, SE @ Truckstop Alaska
11/23 Copenhagen, DK @ VEGA
11/24 Hamburg, DE @ Hafenklang
11/25 Berlin, DE @ White Trask
11/27 Boulogne Billancourt, FR @ Festival BB Mix
11/28 Reims, FR @ La Cartonnerie
11/30 Nuremberg, DE @ Zentralcafe at K4
12/01 Milan, IT @ Lo Fi Club
12/02 Rome, IT @ Init
12/03 Livorno, IT @ The Cage
12/04 Bologna, IT @ Locomotiv Club
12/06 Reitschule, CH @ Dachstock
12/07 Geneva, CH @Antigel Festival
12/09 Moscow, RU @ Theater
12/10 St. Petersburg, RU @ ClubZal
12/11 Tilburg, NL @ Incubate Festival
12/12 Brussels, BE @ Rotonde Botanique
12/13 London, UK @ Electric Ballroom
12/14 Bristol, UK @ The Fleece
12/15 Manchester, UK @ Sound Control
12/16 Newcastle, UK @ University
12/18 Glasgow, UK @ Stereo
12/19 Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
12/20 Brighton, UK @ The Haunt
12/21 Athens, GR @ Fuzz Club!/borisheavyrocks

Boris, Pink (Deluxe Edition) (2016)

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Heretic Rites to Tour Japan in November

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 31st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Serbian doomers Heretic Rites will tour Japan this fall on a run presented by Bonten Records, which is also about to issue a Japanese version of their 2016 In Satan’s Claws EP, first issued by the band in March with a tape on Urtod Records. The band is just over two years old, so to think of them embarking on a Japanese run seems admirably ambitious, and as you can see in the bio info below, it looks like this might play a hand in their hammering out their lineup as well going into their next release, so all the more intriguing a prospect for them going forward. They’ll team up with Sithter and Magdalene Junen for the bulk of the run.

The PR wire had this to say on the subject:


HERETIC RITES Announce Japan Tour Dates With Sithter

Bonten Records is proud to announce the Japan tour dates for HERETIC RITES, sleazy doom cult from Ratkovo, Serbia.

This will be supported by Japanese psycho-sludge SITHTER and female-fronted doom MAGDALENE JUNEN from Tokyo.

Along this tour, Bonten Records will release Japanese edition CD of their 2nd EP ‘In Satan’s Claws’ (2016) with exclusive track in November.

Here is the date.
23.11.2016 Miyagi, Sendai Bird Land with Magdalene Junen, Begrabnis and more
25.11.2016 Tokyo, Higashikouenji 20000V with Magdalene Junen, King Goblin, Zothique
26.11.2016 Oosaka, Sengoku-Daitoryou with Magdalene Junen, Necromantics, W.D.L.K and more
27.11.2016 Aichi, Nagoya Sakae Red Dragon with Magdalene Junen, Vomit Monster, Viollante, Stone Banquet
29.11.2016 Kanagawa, Yokohama El Puente with Su19b, Floaters
30.11.2016 Tokyo, Shibuya Ruby Room with Khola Cosmica, Dhidalah

Heretic Rites were formed in 2014. by Daniel and Željko with aim to play evil and dirty rock n’ roll music. They recorded a demo that year with Šmit filling the position on drums which was released in 2015. and is called “Hiding is so Futile”. Band was well established as a project by that time and in summer 2015. they recorded “In Satan’s Claws” demo (that got released this year).

Since they started writing songs for their third demo, they have had a yet unannounced member on rhythm guitar in their ranks and talked about the possibility of introducing organ/synth to their sound. Due the distance of their drummer, band didn’t play live yet, but have been practising with local friend positioned on drums, The worse is yet to come…

Heretic Rites, In Satan’s Claws (2016)

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Ommadon & Legion of Andromeda Announce UK Tour and Crumbling Existence Split CD

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 3rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Neither Glasgow’s Ommadon nor Tokyo‘s Legion of Andromeda is any stranger to sonic extremity. It’s not every band or couple of bands who could out put something called Crumbling Existence and not have it seem silly and/or at very least overly-aspirational. These two, yeah, it kind of makes sense. Ommadon have a new self-titled single-song 41-minute full-length out now (review pending), while Legion of Andromeda made their debut last year with the relentless Iron Scorn (review here), which left common decency in the mirror en route to death-doom’s ultra-brutal next step. Heavy, heavy, heavy, heavy, heavy. Excruciatingly so.

Crumbling Existence will be out via At War with False Noise presumably by the end of this month, since that’s when the two bands pair up to tour the UK together. So far as I know, it will be Legion of Andromeda‘s first run abroad, and no doubt the craters they and Ommadon leave behind will be tourist attractions for yours to come.

From the PR wire:

ommadon legion of andromeda tour

The heavy drone-doom of Ommadon (Scotland) and relentlessly primitive sludge of Legion Of Andromeda (Japan) join forces to demolish the UK in June and July 2016. To commemorate this destructive occasion, At War With False Noise are releasing a tour- exclusive, full-length split CD, ‘Crumbling Existence’ (mastered by James Plotkin) with pummelling new tracks from both bands. This will be heavy. This will be loud.

1-Ommadon: Fundamentalist Drone (36:49)
2-Legion Of Andromeda: Axis Of Torment (05:07)
3-Legion Of Andromeda: Rectum Scrotum Sputum (07:23)
4-Legion Of Andromeda: Warhead Loaded Penetration (05:57)

Tour dates:
Saturday 25th June: TBC ((email if you’re able to help out)
Sunday 26th June: Plymouth, Underground
Monday 27th June: Nottingham, The Chameleon
Tuesday 28th June: TBC (email if you’re able to help out)
Wednesday 29th June: Leeds, Chunk
Thursday 30th June: Glasgow, Nice N Sleazy
Friday 1st July: Newcastle, Head of Steam
Saturday 2nd July: Liverpool, Maguire’s Pizza Bar
Sunday 3rd July: Edinburgh, The Banshee Labyrinth
Monday 4th July: Oxford, The Wheatsheaf
Tuesday 5th July: London, The Unicorn

Ommadon, Ommadon (2016)

Legion of Andromeda, Iron Scorn (2015)

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Friday Full-Length: Church of Misery, Master of Brutality

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Church of Misery, Master of Brutality (2001)

The first-released Church of Misery album, Master of Brutality, turns 15 this year. It arrived in 2001 via a then-nascent, riff-obsessed Southern Lord Recordings, kin to work by Electric Wizard, Warhorse, Sourvein and Earthride, but somehow more purely indebted to Black Sabbath than any of them. The album’s six component tracks would establish that and several other tenets that the Tokyo-based outfit would adhere to right up until their latest outing, this year’s And Then There Were None (review here), including the centering of bassist Tatsu Mikami‘s lyrics around serial killers — here it’s Ed Kemper, Peter Sutcliffe, Herbert Mullin, Gary Ridgeway and John Wayne Gacy, whose visage graces the original version of the cover — as well as the generally unhinged feel of the swing conjured by drummer Junji Narita, which would also be a factor for the band across multiple records, the inclusion of an instrumental and the inclusion of a cover. On Master of Brutality, it’s “Cities on Flame” by Blue Öyster Cult, and Church of Misery give it the treatment that, in years to follow, they’d also give songs by Cactus, Sir Lord Baltimore, Saint Vitus, Gun and Quatermass, roughing up the approach as few acts could or would dare to do while staying loyal to the ’70s style of the original.

Of course, one has to start out by mentioning Master of Brutality as the first-released Church of Misery album because of the prior-recorded Vol. 1, which wouldn’t surface until 2007, on Leaf Hound Records. Those songs were more formative than Master of Brutality, so in a way the band had the benefit of making their second offering their debut, and one doesn’t need to get much further into the record than the noisy, sample-laden start of “Killafornia (Ed Kemper)” and the rolling groove that ensues to hear that benefit playing out. Church of Misery would go on to refine that central nod to perfection in the next decade-plus across records like 2003’s blown-out The Second Coming, 2009’s Houses of the Unholy (review here), 2013’s Thy Kingdom Scum (review here) and the aforementioned And Then There Were None, as well as an insurmountable slew of short releases, splits, live outings, compilations and so on, but Master of Brutality remains a big part of the foundation for everything that’s come after it. Even the new record, though cover-less, tucks an instrumental onto side B in the spirit of “Green River (Gary Ridgeway)” here, and the boogie of “Megalomania (Herbert Mullin)” and the lurching span of 11-minute finale “Master of Brutality (John Wayne Gacy),” which only gets noisier as it goes, have stood as a blueprint for far more than Church of Misery‘s own post-Sabbath riffing. Their influence continues to be felt in a wide variety of acts the world over.

One can debate the merits of promoting serial killers endlessly. I’m not a huge fan of murder, as concepts go — nor do I feel that’s a particularly risky thing to say — but while Church of Misery‘s thematic may be questionable, the quality of their output never has been. With Mikami as the lone remaining founder of the band, their spirit continues to move forward into the depths of psychosis, bringing us all along for a ride that’s meant to be uncomfortable even as it grooves so irresistibly.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I don’t know if it was outright the best decision I’ve ever made, but I took a personal day from work today, and it has to be pretty high on the list. Yesterday morning, in like the ninth consecutive day of rain, I looked around myself and said, “Golly, it sure would be nice not to do this tomorrow,” and so, being fortunate enough to have the kind of position that comes with allotted time for such things, I took the day off. When I was in school, my mother and I used to call them mental health days. Today has definitely fallen in that category.

Woke up leisurely, packed up leisurely, split out of the house in time to go to the post office and pick up a package, then grabbed coffee and headed south to Connecticut. Got a haircut, met up with Steve Murphy of Kings Destroy for lunch (he drove up) — up, up, up, all day. And that’s way better than what the alternative would’ve been, which would be down, down, down the course of a grueling Friday afternoon watching the clock.

Starting Monday I’m out of town. I’m not sure that really means anything in terms of what or how much will be posted on the site, but it’s worth mentioning. I’m going to New Jersey… for work. I’ll still have posts up. Someone reached out to me this week and asked if I still did reviews, said he heard The Obelisk was going on break. I’d like to know where he heard that. Granted, I’ve been way behind on emails and such — there are a lot of people the last couple weeks who’ve gotten in touch and not heard back — so maybe that’s the root. Interesting though. I certainly don’t feel like I’m taking a break.

Next week: Reviews of Naxatras and maybe Gozu or Goatess, as well as a video premiere on Monday from Messa and a track premiere on Thursday from Limestone Whale. Gonna get to work on my Greenleaf interview as well. Hopefully that’ll be up by Friday. We’ll see. Need to do a new podcast as well. Much to do, much to do.

But yeah, I sure as shit am glad I didn’t go to work today. In CT for the weekend, then to NJ on Monday, but for now, going to chill proper for a couple days, listen to music and hang around in my pajamas, because that’s where it’s at.

Have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

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Church of Misery, And Then There Were None: Survival of the Deadliest

Posted in Reviews on February 25th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

church of misery and then there were none

Now on the other side of the 20-year mark, Tokyo-based doom traffickers Church of Misery seem only to be getting more and more volatile. This suits their long-established murder fetishization, as bassist/founder Tatsu Mikami has become as unpredictable in where he’ll take the band next as he’s been reliable to be obsessed with serial killers when he gets there. Issued through Rise Above, Church of Misery‘s fifth (or sixth, depending on what you count) full-length, And Then There Were None, follows only three years behind 2013’s Thy Kingdom Scum (review here), and yet it has brought about a complete revision of who the band are and what they do. Mikami, as ever, is at the center. He’s seen players come and go all along, but the new seven-track/42-minute collection might be the most radical revamp to-date.

Traveling to the heart of American doom’s underground — Maryland — Mikami assembled a Church of Misery lineup as an in-the-know supergroup, hand-picking Dave “Depraved” Szulkin of Blood Farmers for guitar and Earthride and ex-Internal Void drummer Eric Little, and grabbing Repulsion frontman Scott Carlson (based in Los Angeles) for the vocalist role. No one has ever accused Mikami of having bad taste in anything except perhaps subject matter, and one sincerely doubts And Then There Were None will change that. Perhaps as notable a shift as that of the lineup is the fact that Mikami didn’t write the lyrics for the album, Carlson did, and while “Doctor Death (Harold Shipman),” “Make Them Die Slowly (John George Haigh),” “Murderfreak Blues (Tommy Lynn Sells),” etc. are still working on a theme and keeping to the direct parenthetical references to mass murderers that has become a staple of Church of Misery‘s approach, the fact that it’s someone else doing the job is a major departure for the band.

It is one of few. Though Mikami has chosen the company he’s keeping exceedingly well, the core of what makes Church of Misery who they are — their running lyrical theme and ultra-loyalist Sabbathian doom rock — remains righteously intact on And Then There Were None, as the lurching opener “The Hell Benders (The Bender Family)” sets out to immediately prove. It begins with sampled violence; something metal hitting with a thud, someone yelling. Carlson, who also played bass in Cathedral, seems to be taking some cues from that band’s frontman, Lee Dorrian (also the head of Rise Above) in adding a spoken layer under his guttural verses, and he adds considerable presence both to the opening track and to the album as a whole, though the same could be said of Szulkin‘s spaced-out guitar solo and Little‘s stomping drums at the end of the song as well. That same airy lead tone from Szulkin makes an appearance on the subsequent “Make Them Die Slowly (John George Haigh)” and returns for closer “Murderfreak Blues (Tommy Lynn Sells),” while “Doctor Death (Harold Shipman)” (at least its second solo) and centerpiece “River Demon (Arthur Shawcross)” offer earthier fare.

church of misery

In either context, Szulkin meets the occasion no less head-on than Carlson or Little as “Make Them Die Slowly” offers the strongest hook of And Then There Were None, all swing and well-justified cowbell in its post-sample final chorus before a British news report about Harold Shipman starts “Doctor Death” with start-stop riffing and tom rolls leading to a standout “yeah” from Carlson and satisfyingly nodding groove. They break in the midsection and seem to be starting over with the news report, but the second half of the track is faster and gives the vocals a fitting showcase. Mikami‘s bass feels all the more central in complementing the initial lead of “River Demon,” and Little‘s snare matches step before a sample of Shawcross himself describes a strangulation before the first verse starts. He’ll return again before the finish to recount filling a dead body with C4 before some organ is added to the song’s finish, but most of all, “River Demon” is about Mikami, Szulkin and Little locking into that pivotal rhythm, and as such, it’s all the more fitting as the centerpiece of the record.

That remains true as “Confessions of an Embittered Soul (Leonarda Cianciulli)” repurposes the central riff of Sabbath‘s “Wicked World” into an even more lurking vibe, the guitar reminding a bit of Beelzefuzz‘s organ-style tonality but moving fluidly into and out of solos between Carlson‘s verses before the pace picks up with Iommic layered leads in the midsection — Mikami‘s fuzz crucial — before an ending that does likeminded justice to “Into the Void.” Before “Murderfreak Blues” rounds out, the interlude “Suicide Journey (Heaven’s Gate Cult)” very subtly expands Church of Misery‘s context from serial killers to cults over airy guitar work from Szulkin via more sampled news reports about the Heaven’s Gate group in San Diego, CA, whose 39 members committed suicide in 1997 in order to be transported to the passing comet Hale-Bopp and thus freed from the destruction the arriving millennium would bring. It’s under two minutes long, and definitely an interlude leading to the closer, but it does mark an expansion on the band’s theme, even if it’s not the first time they’ve focused on a cult leader. Fuzzy bass and lumbering guitar start “Murderfreak Blues,” which might as well be a mission statement for Church of Misery, along with an eight-minute bookend with “The Hell Benders,” for its tale of abuse and murder, thoroughly doomed style and unabashed riff-led modus.

As noted, Szulkin provides a highlight lead, but the finale is more about reaffirming how well this incarnation of Church of Misery has worked all throughout And Then There Were None, which it does more than ably. A final jam crashes out with some last sampling and they rumble to a finish no less methodical than was the beginning of “The Hell Benders.” Perhaps more than ever, it’s easy to see Church of Misery as the work of a single mastermind — Mikami — but that shouldn’t lead one to discount the contributions of Little, Szulkin or Carlson here, since Church of Misery sound very much like both and full band and are recognizable as themselves across these songs, both of which are a testament to the new lineup and the songwriting process at root. Hard to imagine And Then There Were None won’t be their best-received album in the States, but beyond that, it demonstrates Mikami‘s unflinching will to take his band’s style to new places and new directions while still holding firm to what’s made it such a landmark all along. Church of Misery remain essential doom, even as they’re subject to seemingly unending flux and less predictable than ever in what they might do next.

Church of Misery, And Then There Were None album trailer

Church of Misery on Thee Facebooks

Church of Misery website

Church of Misery at Rise Above Records

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