Adhering to a proven formula is kind of going to be a theme here this week, so you’ll bear with me as I work my way through bands that have a particular way of going about business and don’t seem all that interested in changing it anytime soon. Is that a good or bad thing? I guess you’re going to have to come back and read. Awwww.
If you’ve gotten into Japanese death-doom merchants Coffins, you pretty much know what to expect each time they put out new music. Shit’s going to be heavy and trudge along, violence will erupt, and you’ll be drubbed to death by these guys who have been making ugly noise since 1996. In that time, they’ve come up with four full-length releases and about a million mini and split efforts, and all the while the formula really hasn’t changed much. But why should it? Coffins obviously love what they do, as do the folks that follow their every gory twist and turn, so why mess with a good thing?
Actually, there has been one big shift going into “The Fleshland,” their fourth album and first for Relapse. Ryo, who used to sit behind the drum kit for the band, now is their lead vocalist. Guitarist Uchino, who used to handle the bulk of the vocals, is still there wailing away as the guitarist, and bassist Koreeda remains, but they felt Ryo would be the best option fronting the band. After multiple visits with “The Fleshland,” I’m hard pressed to argue the point with them because he does such a good job growling and gurgling his way through these nine songs. It’s ugly and bloody, which is just the way a Coffins record should sound. Oh, rounding out the lineup is drummer Satoshi, who’s the new kid in the band. He does a fine job bashing skulls, in case you’re wondering.
After some initial noise wail, weirdness, and feedback, “Here Comes Perdition” hits you like a runaway cement truck right in the chest and blasts you into oblivion. The riffs are rich and creepy, the drums pulverize (that Satoshi is OK!), and the infernal growling runs amok all over the song. The first track alone proves moving Ryo in front of the band on the mic was a great choice. “Hellbringer” pours on the murky, ugly death, but they also keep things catchy enough to move your head. Before it falls off. “The Colossal Hole” (go ahead, get the laughing out of your system) is lurching and flooded with blood-and-guts mashing, taking its damn time doing its damage and bruising your body. The growls from Ryo go along with grimy melodies, searing soloing, and gurgly vocals.
“The Vacant Pale Vessel” is another slow-moving basher, with sweltering guitar work and more razor-sharp soloing in a classic heavy metal vein, while “Rotten Disciples” is punishing and mean, sounding like what it might sound like if Slayer (you know, the classic version of the band) and High on Fire were to go to battle. “Dishuman” is crushing and blistering, with thick, gargantuan growling and impossibly heavy metallic fury. “The Unhallowed Tide” has a similar style as the track that precedes it, as it trucks along looking for any bodies to jam into its wheels, and the grisly, monstrous pace eventually slows to a simmer. Closer “Tormentopia” is a really fun, groove-heavy finale where the band clearly is having a lot of fun making noise trying to get your adrenaline flowing. You could punch along, stomp along, or shout along, but you’ll be spent once it’s over regardless of what you do.
Luckily Coffins know what they do best, and they realize there is no reason to go and change something that already works extremely well. This band’s always done the doom-death thing wickedly, and now they’ll be able to find a larger audience with Relapse’s backing. “The Fleshland” is one hell of a strong Coffins record, and if you like what the band’s done during their whole run, they you certainly won’t be disappointed in the least by this beast.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.coffins.jp/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html
For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/