Church of the Cosmic Skull, Everybody’s Going to Die: Down the Path

Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybodys Going to Die

Presentation has always been a central facet of Church of the Cosmic Skull‘s approach, arguably no less crucial to it than the lush vocal arrangements or tight-knit songcraft that have played out in such classically progressive fashion across their two prior albums, 2018’s Science Fiction (review here) and 2016’s Is Satan Real? (review here). With their third offering and first to be self-released through their own semi-real imprint Septaphonic RecordsEverybody’s Going to Die, they bring their delivery modus to a new level entirely on all fronts, from the writing and execution of the material to the artwork for the album by Zorad, to the release method, to the theme and narrative creating of a kind of journey through a dogma of cosmic self-realization, or, as they put it, “The Psychic Ascension to Humanity,” played out across what they call ‘The Seven Objects’:

– Recognise the hallucinatory nature of reality
– Investigate all aspects of the reality-hallucination
– Receive all phenomena with equanimity
– Celebrate and uphold the freedom of art, science and thought
– Meet mistakes with forgiveness and determination
– Do what you want, with love in your heart
– Maintain focus on the unity of all living beings

To lead the listener through these precepts, Church of the Cosmic Skull — guitarist/vocalist/principal songwriter/producer Brother Bill Fisher, vocalists Sister Caroline Cawley and Sister Joanne Joyce, legkick-prone key specialist/vocalist Brother Michael Wetherburn, bassist/vocalist Brother Samuel Lloyd, and the actual-brothers Brother Joseph Stone on viola and Brother Laurence Stone on drums — have put together a complex release method. Sure, there’s a vinyl release impending, with various special versions available to order from “night black” to “exploding crystal,” “nuclear meltdown” and “cosmic rainbow” — the latter seems the most aesthetically appropriate, given the band’s penchant for color despite their all-white stage costumes — but they’ve also found a means to add complexity to a digital release, often seen as a kind of dumping of tracks onto Bandcamp and other streaming outlets. In Church of the Cosmic Skull‘s hands, even this becomes a work of carefully crafted ideological and creative construction.

They’ve dubbed it ‘The Path,” and essentially it’s a means of introducing the willing participant to the songs of Everybody’s Going to Die one at a time. Since the digital release Nov. 29, if one wants to listen to the 37-minute LP in full, it’s available, but they’ve also made it available through “The Path,” which is a process of signing up through their website and receiving a series of emails from Brother Bill that, with each one, bring an individual track stream and a new step along the purported ascension to humanity, tracing the voyage of a kind of inner-stellar pilgrim, The Protagonist (and eventually The Sorcerer), until at last the final manifestation, accompanying album-finale “Living in a Bubble,” is a stepped-outside view of the multiverse and reality as a series of subjective bubbles created by those living within them.

To call it “heady stuff” would perhaps be putting it mildly, and it’s a sizable ask of an audience that, by most accounts, has grown only more fickle over time, but that, perhaps, is why the album is also just available to stream outright or preorder on LP, CD, etc. “The Path” is there for those who want to find it, and though my own experience of it came with some technical glitch, from never getting a necessary confirmation notice when I signed up to not receiving all the installments thereafter — checked spam and all that; more likely than not the fault of my email system, but still — it’s still an impressive level of commitment on the part of the band to merging technology and aesthetic in a way that few would dare to try. And it does add dimension to the songs, which themselves are heavy pop joys from opener “Fantasy” — perhaps a direct genre answer to Science Fiction before it — through “Don’t You Believe in Magic?” and the hook of hooks in Everybody’s Going to Die‘s title-track.

Piano and guitar shred meet head on in “Do What You Want (With Love in Your Heart)” and with speedier and darker turns, “Into the Skull” encourages listeners to “Follow the path of the Sephiroth into the arms of the Behemoth” (my mind immediately goes to Final Fantasy VII, but I somehow doubt the references are intentional), with an effective shift in atmosphere past even the joyous soulfulness of the title-track or the careening “Don’t You Believe in Magic?” earlier, and though so much of the focus is put by “The Path” on the songs as individual entities — delivering them one-at-a-time on a one-per-day basis will do that — the overarching flow of Everybody’s Going to Die continues through the end of side A and into the in medias res launch of “Seven” on side B of the vinyl, which leads to the longest inclusion on the record at 5:40, “The Hunt,” a slower-tempo organ-laced gospel viber with undertones of doom-blues lumber and a long fade processional that brings about “The Great Black Hole” after a moment of silence like a snap back to the shimmer that still maintains some of the additional heft of tone and atmosphere.

Perhaps it’s fair that “The Great Black Hole” caps with a purposeful cacophony and leads into the bouncing “Sorcery and Sabotage” ahead of “Living in a Bubble.” The closing duo are positioned to represent a final stage after some of the branching out and tumult of “Seven,” “The Hunt” and “The Great Black Hole,” so the transition seems appropriate. And as it plays into the theme, there is a palpable sense of clarity in both “Sorcery and Sabotage” and the subsequent capper that speak once again to the multifaceted, multi-tiered vision Church of the Cosmic Skull are executing. One has come to expect from the band that performances and arrangements will be at least as close to flawless as the band wants them to be — which can be rather close, as their history has shown — and Everybody’s Going to Die bears that out, to be sure. What one didn’t necessarily expect was just how much they would extend that “arrangement” ethic to the theme and circumstance of the album itself.

So is “The Path” a help or a hindrance? Does it represent a new level of interaction between artist and audience, or simply a band extending proggy indulgence to clever HTML storytelling? The answers will depend entirely on the individual’s choice of how they take on Everybody’s Going to Die. From my own view, depth never hurts, and Church of the Cosmic Skull wisely cover all their bases in having “The Path” there for those who would walk it and more mundane release methods there for those who would not or who simply don’t have the time. One way or the other, with their third full-length, Church of the Cosmic Skull extend the care and precision that has marked their execution since their outset to the manner in which they unveil the record itself, and even if one just listens to the songs without any of the context surrounding, there’s little arguing with the fact that they earn that degree of engagement. If it’s a simple case of Church of the Cosmic Skull doing what they want with love in their collective heart, then it seems only correct to be grateful for that.

Church of the Cosmic Skull, Everybody’s Going to Die (2019)

Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Sorcery and Sabotage” official video

Church of the Cosmic Skull website

Church of the Cosmic Skull on Thee Facebooks

Church of the Cosmic Skull on Soundcloud

Church of the Cosmic Skull on Bandcamp

Church of the Cosmic Skull on YouTube

Church of the Cosmic Skull on Instagram

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