Church of Misery again retell serial killer horror stories with ‘Thy Kingdom Scum’

church of misery
Sunday evenings in my house often are spent like this: My wife is in the kitchen putting together some elaborate culinary creation for the week, while I’m in the living room with the dog watching stories about serial killers and murderers on A&E. I’m not a fan of serial killers, per se, because that would be kind of perverse, but I am interested in how they operate and come to be.

It’s mesmerizing to think how these people function, how they psychologically can deal with taking another person’s life, usually in a horrifically brutal manner, how they blend into society without people suspecting them, and how they find the means to kill again and again and again. I guess it’s good I can’t identify with the frame of mind, but often times the deeper I dig into these people’s stories and where they came from, the more I can understand–on the surface, anyway–how these monsters came to life. It’s also probably a major reason I don’t trust a lot of people. Any of these people can be lurking anywhere, and they’d probably be right under our noses.

Japanese doom metal vets Church of Misery obviously feel the same way as they have carved out an entire discography covering this subject matter, and that follows through on their latest record “Thy Kingdom Scum,” their fifth overall and first since 2009’s “Houses of the Unholy.” Here, as they normally do, they present their song titles along with the killer who inspired the jam in parentheses, so not only can you get caught up in their swaggering thunder, you also can learn about the sick fuck who inspired them to make said song. Funny enough, their music isn’t scary in the slightest, as they do a nice trad Black Sabbath and grimy Eyehategod hybrid, and you’re likely to be as astonished by their organic playing as their subject matter.

church of misery coverLike many bands whose history spans nearly two decades, Church of Misery have had their share of lineup changes, with bassist Tatsu Mikami the one constant through their history. Drummer Junji Narita has been with the band since 2000, while guitarist Ikuma Kawabe is the new kid. Vocalist Hideki Fukasawa has been in and out of the band, though he did sing on “Houses” and 2004’s “The Second Coming,” and he’s back in the fold for this one, and we’re thankful for that. He can have a bit of a mush-mouthed delivery sometimes, but that’s part of his charismatic charm. He’s growly, bluesy, and wonderfully over the top, but he never emotes at the expense of the music. He’s there to enhance things and the messages, and I hope the band never has a different singer. He’s essential.

Instrumental “B.T.K.” opens the album and even though there are no vocals, that doesn’t mean horrible things aren’t vocalized, as we hear Dennis Rader’s chilling courtroom testimony as he confesses his crimes, while the band backs that up with trippy, bluesy riffing and a shuffling assault. “Lambs to the Slaughter,” inspired by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley’s terrifying run of child murders, swaggers and has a thunderous melody, as Fukasawa’s vocals sometimes remind of Phil Anselmo at his nastiest. There’s also some fantastic guitar work in this song that could make anyone go for the air version of the instrument. “Brother Bishop,” about Gary Heidnik, who tortured and murdered women, is a solid Sabbath-style bruiser that also has a taste of psychedelic sweetness. Awful story to be retelling, but the band finds a way to make the music compelling and fiery, while you cower at the details.

“Cranley Gardens,” based on Dennis Andrew Nilsen, who murdered 15 young men in London in the late ’70s/early ’80s, is slow and eerie through much of its running time, with Fukasawa mumble-moaning his words and the band launching into a sweltering blues jam at the end.

The band’s cover of Quartermass’ “One Blind Mice,” might seem odd with the subject matter we’re talking about, but the band does a fine job re-enacting this gem and putting their buzzy, distorted stamp on the song. “All Hallow’s Eve” is about John Linley Frazier, who violently gunned down a doctor and his family in Santa Cruz, California, in 1970, also has the Sabbath vibe and has more of the band’s trademark tight playing and spooky storytelling. Closer “Düsseldorf Monster,” which focuses on Peter Kürten, a German murderer whose bloody crimes occurred in the late 1920s and terrorized that country, is bluesy, scratchy, grimy track that’s the longest on here at 12:45 and one of the most grisly subject-wise, especially as Fukasawa howls, “Here comes the monster.” The doom simmers, the powerful bassline pops you over and over, and the psychedelic expression puts a gigantic exclamation point on this destructive, scary album.

Church of Misery’s fixation with serial killers might make their friends and loved ones a little nervous, but as for us metal fans, we should be thrilled. Every time they set out to tell more gory stories, we get smoldering slabs of doom metal that are as fun to hear as they are to dissect. If you’re one of the many who go out to grab that new Sabbath album this weekend, pick up a copy of this one, too. You might find yourself going more toward “Thy Kingdom Scum” than that long-awaited return from metal’s godfathers.

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