Gnaw’s ‘Horrible Chamber’ is a horrific soundtrack of mental decay and breakdown

gnawHave you ever been in one of those moods or situations where you don’t think you can endure anymore punishment or poor results or bad luck? Where your face is against the wall, and all of the pressure and force of life mashes and suffocates you, sending you into a spiral of panic. Do you often feel that you need someone to understand your explosive psychosis?

Luckily for you, Alan Dubin does. You probably know him from one of his most infamous projects Khanate, one of the most terrifying, deranged bands of the past decade. Now here with Gnaw, he’s able to take his, uh, gift, and smear it over this industrial-spiked doom that might even be more uncomfortable. Dubin’s vocals definitely are not for everyone. They may be for the very few who truly identify with the chaos and filth that char his mind and soul. He sounds like a man on the edge. Meaning the edge of a cliff or the cusp of a potentially violent mental breakdown, and he cannot control the voices spewing from his mouth. You hear his anger, disillusionment, and mental decay without a filter, and it’s a sobering and frightening display.

6_Panel_DigipakThis isn’t to assume Dubin is the only highlight of Gnaw. He is surrounded by a cast that complements his fury and create sounds as corrosive as as his words, and on the band’s second full-length “Horrible Chamber” (perfect title, by the way), they’re at their very finest. The rest of the band is comprised of Carter Thornton (guitars, bass, other sounds), Brian Beatrice (guitars, bass), Jun Mizumachi (electronics), and Eric Neuser (drums, percussion), and they’re a total force to hammer home the damaged psyche swirling in Dubin’s brain. The band mixes abrasive noise, drone, doom, and metallic swagger on seven songs that’ll damage and burn you.

The record opens with “Humming,” a crazed, chillingly bizarre piece where the madness is allowed to erupt early and dramatically. Dubin howls, “Humming inside!” as if he’s providing a running commentary to something churning in his mind that he can’t turn off or quell, and the band supports him with fiery noise and creepy piano. “Of Embers” kicks your ass, with a swaggering bluesy doom mix smooshed with scarred buzzing, and it’s a solid example of how the band knows how to do more than just make strange sounds. “Water Rite” stretches over seven minutes and often feels like a giant factory pumping out clouds of black industrial smoke, and Dubin’s voices is treated with a mechanical effect that makes him sound even more alien than he does otherwise. There are weird stabs of melodic singing at times, bizarre rants, and stuff that reminds of Faith No More’s more molten moments. “Worm” has a tasty, pulverizing thrash riff that holds the track together, and Dubin manages to melt down even further, shrieking, “I’m the worm,” and ranting about insignificance while his doom is on full display.

“Widowkeeper” opens like a face-melting furnace, with noise and trauma, and strange eerie whispering leaves you uneasy, making you vulnerable for when the hammer drops and the song detonates. The track is black and bleak, the noise could leave you as unhinged as Dubin’s words, and the song results in a total mind eraser. “Vulture” is one of the faster songs in Gnaw’s canon, as noise and sludge muddy their path and the bluesy soloing that meets up with the filth gives the song a ballsy feel. Dubin manages to top himself yet again on this one, howling, “If only I could stand,” which could mean a million different things, but you know whatever it is that it isn’t good. Closer “This Horrible Chamber” is 12 minutes of pure audio torture (in a good way), that is full of ambient hiss, strange blips, maniacal sizzling, and Dubin disintegrating, wailing about dreams going unfulfilled, warning listeners that, “This is where you end up,” and begging, “I want out.” It’s slurry and horrific, and it should only leave you feeling darker and more hopeless.

So yeah, sadly I totally relate to what’s going on with “Horrible Chamber,” because it hasn’t been a banner year for me, especially the past few weeks. But I had Gnaw to lean on, and I knew when the record was over that I could rely on this band to provide an escape where I can dump my madness and relate to others who sound like they’re dangling off the edge. Gnaw might annoy some people, make others feel uncomfortable, piss off others. But you’re going to feel something when you hear Gnaw, and you’re going to react. And if you’re like me and want to immerse yourself in every sick sound on this record, you’ll find a document that you’ll feel like is reading and then interpreting what’s in your head.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Finland’s Oranssi Pazuzu deliver psyche-space drama on ‘Valonielu’

oranssiIt’s hard to run into music in any category that is truly unique sounding. So many ideas have surfaced, been tried, and been done to death, that being even somewhat original is not an easy task. So when someone does come along and has a new approach or something you haven’t heard before–or at least in a long while–it makes that band stand out even more.

I’m sure you’ve already heard the hype surrounding Finnish metal squadron Oranssi Pazuzu and their third record “Valonielu,” because it seems every corner of the universe is talking about them. It’s for damn good reason, because this band is doing something neck-jerkingly fresh, as in no other band out there is producing sounds like they are, and I’d expect after this record runs its natural course, the flood of copiers and pretenders will come rushing after them trying to capitalize. But what they followers will lack is the magic this band creates on their albums (2011’s “Kosmonument” was awfully solid as well) and the pure ingenuity in their compositions. They meld death metal, black metal, prog, and a healthy dose of Krautrock in their delicious stew of sounds, and it’s clear from taking a few trips with their new record that their process is wholly organic and not forced just to be different. They’ve found an explosive way to seamlessly blend their various influences.

CDDG4T1-004.pdf“Valonielu” is getting an extra hand in its promotion and worldwide coverage, as it’s being released by Svart in Europe and by 20 Buck Spin in North America. 20 Buck Spin has been no stranger to properly acclaimed records in 2013, as they just put out the amazing new Atlantean Kodex and still have the deranged, mentally damaged Vastum record up their sleeve in November. Exposing this effort to the North American audience not only proves them wise once again when it comes to finding great talent, but it also gives the band a chance to find more ears on this continent to absorb their space-infested, melodic, but damaged metal that feels like a weird, mind-altering experience for most of the journey, but that that brings you back sporting scars and bruises. It’s also just good for your brain.

Five singularly monikered musicians make up the roster of Oranssi Pazuzu, that being vocalist/guitarist Jun-His (formerly of like-minded but decidedly less barbaric Kuolleet Intiaanit), guitarist Moit, keyboard player EviL (responsible for the band’s heavy psychedelic haze), bassist Ontto, and drummer Korjak. Their foray deeper into the cosmos and the farthest reaches of your mind is partially what makes this new record so fascinating and essential to all metal fans with adventurous tastes, but their scathing metallic tendencies that reek of Enslaved and even Darkthrone are what will those of us who need things brutal all the time totally plugged in.

“Vino verso” is an ideal stage setter, as the song wooshes in, guitars gets charged up, and prog weirdness spews forth from the keys. Jun-His’ growls are creaky and savage, and the music around him sounds like it’s getting you ready for a sci-fi-based drama. “Tyhja tempelli” feels creepy and isolated at first, but then spiraling, bent guitar lines slip in, giving the song a late-at-night feel, like you’re outside on a dark road, with your flesh getting colder, your walk seemingly getting longer. The melodies can mess with your head, but they’re also mesmerizing and sticky, making this my favorite track on the record. “Uraanisula” is the first of the record’s two epics, running nearly 12 minutes.The song has a cold, cosmic-style opening that spills into cleanly played doom and then meaty, sinewy riffs. The guitar work is full of atmosphere through the bulk of the song, keyboards bubble to the surface, and the band eventually hits on a thorny prog section that reminds me a lot of classic Voivod. That brings the thrash and punishment to its high point, and Jun-His’ furious vocals are menacing and terrifying.

“Reika maisemassa” lets you have a little breather. It’s an ambient-heavy instrumental that again hints at space exploration, and the plodding drums help lead the song along its path. “Olen aukaissut uuden silman” has a rousing open that’s crushing but also brainy and weird, and this is one of the burlier examples of their black metal tendencies. Some of the melodies remind me of Chris Black’s darker ideas, as the guitars bulk up and melodies surge, leading into its fairly strange ending. Closer “Ympyra on viiva tomussa” is the final epic of the record, ticking in a little over 15 minutes and remaining captivating the entire time. The beginning feels like what you might hear in your head if you were trapped on alien terrain with only yourself as company, as your anxiety and terror match your natural curiosity. Noises scream out and cause abrasions and other damage, while the melodies surge then melt over. Jun-His’ vocals again are nasty and harsh, and he works amid keys zapping from all over, doom-heavy riffs dropping tonnage, and even more intergalactic exploration, which obviously is a huge theme. The violence continues to build as the song reaches its conclusion, and the noise and chaos sizzles and fizzles out at the end, as their little ship disappears from the atmosphere and back into space.

“Valonielu” is just stunning, the most unique metal record you’ll hear all year, and the one that’ll make you do the most imagination inside your head. I defy you not to dream of space missions, of stars exploding, and of bright colors dashing across the night sky when you absorb this album. This collection has intellectual meat for the thinkers, brutality for those who live by heaviness and volume, and the total package for those who want both of those things. Oranssi Pazuzu already are making the most of their expanded audience simply be delivering this record, and it’s up to everyone else to plug in and realize what we’re all so excited about.

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Uzala destroy doom metal’s face on killer second record ‘Tales of Blood and Fire’

uzalaHearing bands grow from record to record can be one of the fun parts of following musicians through their journeys. Where do they go, what do they add, what do they subtract, what do they become? Not that every band has to change the formula every time out, but it sure is more fun when you hear new music from a group and are knocked on your ass by how they’ve grown.

On that note, holy shit, on their sophomore album “Tales of Blood & Fire,” Uzala are damn near unrecognizable from the form they took on their debut album that came out just last year. I mean, the people look the same, but their sound has developed into something so markedly different that they could have put a different band’s name on this five-track new offering and no one would have wondered anything. Had I gotten this record with no band name and no bio attached and just sat down to listen, I’m not sure I ever would have guessed this was Uzala. Now, is that a bad or a good thing? It it an incredibly great thing, because this band went from a scuzzy, messy, charred idea to something way more fully realized and that has the potential to become one of the best bands in the entire doom genre. That might sound hyperbolic–I realize their debut, that I loved, had some divergent opinions–but take on this album and see if I’m not right. It’s astonishing both in development and quality of their music. Uzala are a fucking force.

uzala coverFront and center of this band’s sharp new power is Darcy Nutt, whose vocals have expanded a million fold. She was always a good singer and one of Uzala’s sharpest weapons, but now she’s a superpower. Her range has expanded, as has her gift of expression, and hearing how she has continued to build upon her gift since last record is nothing short of a revelation. She has to be in the discussion when talking who has the most impactful voice in doom metal. The rest of the band also has grown burlier and more muscular, including guitarist Chad Remains and drummer Chuck Watkins (Nutt also plays guitar, so she’s a part of this hellish expansion of sound). Their aproach is massive and suffocating (production by the awesome Tad Doyle), but it also has fresh melodies and a sense of danger wrapped up in adventure that totally ramps up the drama and outright violence. This band is not to be messed with.

Uzala’s refurbished strengths are obvious right away, as “Seven Veils” drops with a doom-infested collection of riffs, then that meets Nutt’s soaring, soulful vocals that do their best to expand the band’s headspace and explore every square inch. The song slithers, boils, and melts down, as Nutt’s wordless melodies carry the song to its conclusion. “Dark Days” opens with seven straight minutes of drone thunder that is as mighty as anything Sunn 0))) contributed to the world of metal, and it keeps building and raging until it hits so hard, you wonder how it could get deadlier. But it does. A psychedelic-style melody slips out of that storm and catapults this track on its smoky second half, with Nutt adding to this slow, dreary killer. “Burned” also has its share of drone fire, but it also feeds on a stoner riff that rides into psyche weirdness and some liquidy, sci-fi-style bubbling. Nutt sounds as tough and menacing as ever on this song, cutting her way across the terrain, and as she weaves in and out of the mist that populates the closing stretch of this song, she also sounds deadly accompanied by the thrashing explosions that close this chapter.

“Countess” is one of Uzala’s most impressive songs to date. Nutt’s vocal melodies are enrapturing, and she takes complete control of the track as its storyteller. The band, meanwhile, is busy building a bluesy, shadowy track that would not sound out of place on the Rise Above label, as it conjures senses of Cathedral, Blood Ceremony, and Electric Wizard. The song punishes you, yet all the while it bristles with glimmering life and slashes through your senses like a white-hot blade. If this song doesn’t turn you on to Uzala’s glory, then perhaps you cannot be saved. Closer “Tenement of the Lost,” the shortest song on the record at 4:17, stomps all over the place, and the vicious, ominous assault is seconded by Nutt’s forceful, swaggering vocals that take on a new level of toughness. It’s a strong conclusion to the band’s best collection yet.

If you were wary of Uzala going into this, don’t ignore this record. Again, I really liked their debut album but can understand how its abrasiveness may have roughed up some people. But “Tales of Blood & Fire” is like their true arrival, an eye-opening experience that trumpets this band’s pure power and will and makes them one of doom metal’s most interesting bands going. Uzala have hit on something special, and they are well equipped to take over the metal landscape, burn what they don’t like, and rule with an iron, spiked fist.

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Comic death beasts Gigan back with more insane creations, warps on ‘Multi-Dimensional …’

giganI am convinced Eric Hersemann has been to outer space. In fact, he may have come from there. Well, maybe we all have. You know those theories are out there. But really, Hersemann is from there, and I think he arrived on Earth fairly recently to enrapture us all in his brand of psychedelically warped death metal destruction.

In case you don’t know who I’m talking about, he’s the brain and driving force behind Gigan, one of the most destructive and bizarre bands in the entire metal world and one that certainly stands on its own artistic merits. Their music, with Hersemann at the helm since its 2006 inception, has grown over the years and has become a larger, more violent beast as it’s gained more momentum and the fire in its belly has flared to insane levels. In 2011, their second full-length album “Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes” brought Gigan and its members to their greatest level yet, and the record was just a mind-blowing, face-melting assault that sounded like nothing else in the death metal world. Now, two years later, Gigan are back for more with their third album “Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery and Super Science.” Go ahead and take a few minutes to memorize that mouthful of a title.

gigan coverHersemann remains the main beast behind this band, taking care of songwriting duties and playing some of the most bizarre guitar you’ll ever hear (and he’s left-handed!), as well as bass, and other instruments that make the swarm of sound. Joining him on this record are drummer Nate Cotton and new vocalist Eston Browne (who replaces the mighty John Collett, who was a force on their last record). The new guys had their work cut out for the to immerse themselves in this weird cosmos but have done a hell of a job proving their worth. The eight cuts stretched over about 45 minutes are as insane, dizzying, and baffling as ever before, and their assault on this record comes from all over the place, leaving you no time to prepare for it all.

“Beneath the Seas of Tranquility” is a boiling yet crunchy opener that gets the madness kicked off in earnest, as strange melodies build up and are blow away, and Browne’s growls even get some alien treatment that sounds like they are blown through a poisonous cloud. Toward the end of the cut, the band delves into a section that’s damn near grindcore as they peel off techy devastation. “Influence Through Ritualistic Projection” has cartoon-like guitar playing, like it could soundtrack a zany Tom vs. Jerry battle, but then the cut gets harsh and destructive, with piercing guitar strikes that shoot out of the darkness, and vocals that sound infernal. “Electro-Stimulated Hallucinatory Response” sounds like what Primus might have if they had gone straight death metal, as it’s loopy and crazy, with more alien vocals and guitars that buzz like a swarm of winged insects you’ve never seen before. “Mother of Toads,” one of the most normal song titles on the whole damn record, is mind boggling and mega speedy, with warped weirdness, guitars that seem to blast out of every corner of the song, and trippy, spacey wonder.

“Obsidian Sun” opens with a flurry of guitars, and it settles into a thrashy, compelling composition that’s captivating and should hold your interest as the band pounds away. “Cosmic Triangular Communications” has all of the moving parts pulsating and sending out violent energy, and it’s the one song that most resembles what Gigan accomplished on the last record. In fact, it feels a bit like a bridge between the two albums. “Gibbering Hordes of Zemiath” goes back to those swarms I mentioned earlier, as this calculating, penetrating cut makes it sound like those creatures are back for another attack, and the bizarre screaming and screeching heard at the end very well may be their battle cries. It’s creepy. Closer “Bio-Engineered Molecular Abnormalities” is a thick, bubbling cauldron of horror, with the band again going back to dust off their grindcore tendencies. The drums are just devastating and relentless, and the rest of the song sounds like it’s blasting off to go back into space to fuel up on more toxins and troops to make their next assault even more obliterating.

“Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery and Super Science” sure is a crazy-ass development for Gigan, and if your mind was fried on their previous records, you’ll be as shaken and stirred mentally on this one. I prefer “Quasi-Hallucinogenic” over this record, as it felt more immediate and intoxicating to me, and it also happened to be one of my favorite records of 2011. But I certainly like this one, too, and like any of Gigan’s work, it takes some time for their music to really bust through your cells and get into your blood. Hard to say if this will be the same form of Gigan that attacks us next time around, but you can be sure Hersemann will be commandeering the ship with more death metal that doesn’t sound even remotely human.

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Craven Idol’s hellacious debut album ‘Towards Eschaton’ ignites death metal hellfire

craven idolThere are those days when you have water pouring through your kitchen ceiling like it’s Niagara Falls and you have to shell out $500 to fix the thing that makes having evil, infernal death metal at arm’s length such a wonderful thing. Not that it cures any of that or gets your money back, but it at least provides an outlet for your total, complete frustration.

So when this exact scenario happened to me this past week, on my day off no less, and as I spent almost the entire day dealing with what was going on, it made having Craven Idol’s debut full-length “Towards Eschaton” at my disposal that much more welcoming. See, part of my day during plumbing hell 2013 was going to be spent writing this review of the UK-based death metal band’s introductory long player, but because I was busy having my bank account butchered and unloading buckets of water into the yard, that didn’t exactly happen. But it also made me look differently at an album that already was having massive positive influence on me for how good it sounds, because it helped me deal with some frustration and anger, if only because it exactly mirrored what was going on in my head and the fury I would like to release productively.

craven idol coverCraven Idol, the hellish beasts they are, go by pseudonyms that are as awesome and dastardly as their heathen sound. Vrath (also of Coprofagi and Sepulchral Temple) is on guitars and vocals, and joining him are guitarist Scourger (also of Deceptor and Solstice), bassist Suspiral and, for the recording, veteran drummer Volgard (Dying Age, Scythian). The fury behind this band cannot be questioned, and they have such an explosiveness and evil intent that they should frighten not just unsuspecting people who are creeped out easily, but even other death metal bands. They’re that mean and massive, and even while being bruised, you’re also bound to have some fun listening to this amalgamation of classic thrash and death with a heavy dose of evil.

“To Summon Mayrion” welcomes you into this infernal world with eerie noise, liturgical-style chants that haunt to the core, and a chilling ambiance that all sets up before the track even kicks in fully. Then it’s right into a doom-infested assault, a chewy death groove, and fierce, crazed shrieks from Vrath that observes horrors “at the hour of death.” “Sworn Upon the Styx” is one of the shortest songs on the record, but it uses its mangling running time to unleash punishing blasts and fast, meaty guitar trauma. “Golgotha Wounds” begins with ominous thunder claps and relentless blast beats, sending up a cloud of suffocating smoke and chaos led by strong guitar lines and a pure sense of old school death metal that isn’t imitation but truly an example of work that makes that style’s original veins so toxic. “Craven Atonement” has a punk-fueled approach, as the song gallops and riffs sizzle over the top of the track. It’s a great example of the band’s insatiable hunger for madness and sounds downright soaked in blasphemy.

“Codex of Seven Dooms” might hint at a slow-driven, muddy experience, but it’s more fierce and furious than you might expect from the title. There are melodic, triumphant guitar melodies that surge throughout the track, and just when you think the song can’t possibly be more devastating, the thing erupts, and they manage to pour buckets of fuel on the raging fire. “Aura of Undeath” is stirring and blistering, giving another heaping helping of old-school death metal, while “Left to Die” changes things up a bit. There’s more atmosphere, and the outer space weirdness gives off hints of Voivod. It’s a really tricky but enthralling cut that’ll keep you wondering. Closer “Orgies” is, much like its title might hint, a huge release. The band plays loud and fast, showing off more of their punk tendencies, and the gut-filled, filthy track brings the perfect, soiled end to this album.

Craven Idol is another great find by Dark Descent, as they have a practical stranglehold on unearthing underground gems of pure damnation. “Towards Eschaton” is a fire-breathing introduction for this band to a larger audience, and they deliver a crusty, bloody, maniacal record that’s worthy of being mentioned alongside the best death metal platters of the year. These guys are onto something horrific and monstrous, and their first long player is a sign that a new band of warriors is here to reclaim death metal’s past and put to death the pretenders who have sullied the landscape the last decade or so. May they suffer.

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Black metal warriors Gehenna return from the ashes with horrifying crusher ‘Unravel’

gehennaDespite your particular spiritual persuasion, or lack thereof, I think we have a pretty good idea about the concept of eternal damnation and a lashing pit for the wicked. Each religion has its own version of this horrible place, and if you’ve heard a metal album or two, you know the music is fairly wrapped up in evil and chaos.

Nordic black metal heathens Gehenna might not be a destination for eternal suffering, but they probably could not have picked a better name for their black metal art they have spread across the universe for nearly the past two decades. They followed on the path of the second wave of black metal that bubbled up in their homeland, and they were one of the ones that survived past that point and went on to create chaotic, meaningful art well into the future. In fact, they’ve been fairly consistent on their musical output, they’ve slowed down their productivity a bit since the turn of the century. We’ve only gotten three albums from the band in the past 13 years, though at least what they have given us has been very much worth the wait.

gehenna coverThe band’s seventh record “Unravel” finally is in our hands, and it’s their first record since 2005’s “WW,” which was released on Moonfog. Now the band calls Indie Recordings home, and their first offering for that label is as foreboding, dark, and drubbing as anything they’ve ever put out, and it’s sort of a cold, horrible rebirth for Gehenna that not only should please folks who have been along for the ride since their 1994 debut “First Spell” but also should find favor among younger fans who are hungry for something more violent and terrifying than most of what black metal offers the world these days.

Now, even though Gehenna remain, and their mission is just as horrible, the forces behind the band have changed since the last record. Founding member Sanrabb, who handles vocals and guitars, among other things, has been the voice of the band from the start, and joining him this time around are guitarist Skinndod (Throne of Katarsis), bassist Byting, and drummer Slatrarinn. They form a horrific union that sounds perfectly attuned for Gehenna’s 2013 mission and also happen to have made one of the band’s best efforts in some time.

We kick off with “The Decision,” a song that begins with piano dripping down and a grim atmosphere forming before buzzing guitars cut through and the mission is allowed to unfurl slowly. Sanrabb’s vocals are abrasive and throaty, and despite the song feeling downright hellish, there also is a sense of melody that floods the area. Actually, melody is something that returns often on this album, making it approachable yet bloodthirsty. The title cut is blistering and fast, with tortured wails and uncompromising death, though it eventually applies the brakes as the cut drowns out in a fog of doom. “Nothing Deserves Worship” is slow-driving and menacing, as guitar lines are strangled and melodies slip into the murk. It’s hazy and furious, relentless and completely morbid. “Nine Circles of Torture” is one of the shorter cuts on the album, as guitars churn and grow dissonant but eventually ignite into full-blown terror.

“A Grave of Thoughts” has a smoky, slow-burning feel to it, and it also drubs and dumps millions of tons of doom right on top of your chest. At nearly seven minutes, it’s one of the longest tracks on the record, and it makes the most of its running time, burning and scorching the earth as it moves through its journey. “Lead to the Pyre” lets speed and punishment back into the proceedings, and it has a thrashy complexion and is a hammering helping of black metal. “End Ritual” also has a deep serving of melody that pulls you into the track, and it feels like a heavy storm moving through the night, settling over you and drowning you with thunder and downpours. Organs slip in and freeze your already soaked soul, and the guitars completely haunt. In a similar vein, closer “Death Enters” also has its ghostly transmissions, with trickling keys that stagger over its introduction, making it feel like something that would make the late Vincent Price proud. This song is pure magic, as the band hits on an approach where they all sound spiritually aligned in their playing and continually build the drama, only to tear it back down again. “Will you bow down?” Sanrabb howls, as the chaos swells and breaks, the band hits on a dark melody that keeps striking back, and the toxic swarm of damnation the band creates suddenly ends, leaving you in the dark, wondering if you’ll survive.

We may have waited a while for Gehenna to strike back, but it was totally worth every moment. The current version of the band made a painfully dark document that nicely captures the hopelessness and evil that surrounds us now, and while it won’t make you feel any better about the world, it at least should help you understand that you’re not alone in your disillusionment. Hopefully we hear back from Gehenna a little sooner that we’ve come to expect, but as long as they keep creating horrifying records such as “Unravel,” we’re willing to wait in the shadows.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: The Body give glimpse of Armageddon on terrifying ‘Christs, Redeemers’

the bodyYou always read about people saying records are the “soundtrack to the Apocalypse” or doomsday taking music form, and it’s simply a way to easily convey the destructive nature and pure hell contained inside a collection of songs that rise above a normal level of terror.

We’re all guilty of this association, myself included. But it really can’t be used anymore past today, because finally a record that perfectly personifies that description, that ideally conveys the Earth crumbling in on itself, and humanity being crushed into oblivion has arrived. The Body’s new album “Christs, Redeemers” is as black, as dark, as frightening as it gets. Tons of bands make tumultuous musical statements seemingly every week, but they’re going to be hard pressed to out-doom what The Body accomplish on this 10-track, 50-minute slab of horror. Every moment drips with violent drama and end-of-the-world chaos, and this record is one of the most frightening documents I’ve ever heard. Ever.

body coverThe Body always have had a black grasp on the morose and the end of existence. Each of their records–“Christs” is their fourth long player–has built on this subject, and they have become less and less human in their expression of the snuffing out of all things. Add to that that these two guys–guitarist/vocalist Chip King, drummer Lee Buford–also use ghostly imagery, the kind of thing that should make you sleep with the light on at night for fear such apparitions could appear on your wall on in the corner of your room. That, along with their sound, identify and poke all of those great, dark fears lurking beneath you and expose them for you to see and face, even if you don’t want to do that. Who wants to face their destruction? Who wants to see the world ripped apart by weapons or people or demons? No one, as it is most people’s greatest fear, and The Body roll and cover their bodies with the soot of such emotions.

Over time, The Body’s sound also has grown and become uglier, yet more beautiful at the same time. Their horrific, damaged doom has only gotten meatier and more nuanced, turning all the blood of the world black, but their association with the Assembly of Light Choir has added an angelic element to their filth, a collection of sirens to call you toward your destruction. Yes, the sounds they make are gorgeous, but they’re also unsettling, making you realize just after the sense of ease settles in that you’ve been fooled and they have sharp teeth. There’s also the matter of King’s inhuman banshee shriek of a voice, something that rattles and irritates some listeners but that sounds like no one else’s in any form of music. It is the sound of pain, human suffering, and demonic possession, and its shrill knife’s edge can carve its way through your mind and into your soul.

You’re not exactly eased into this record as a chill is sure to hit your blood from the start. “I, the Mourner of Perished Days” feels like a nightmare state, with noise, fuzz, and Chrissy Wolpert opening the tale with her haunting voice, backed by Reba Mitchell. As the frightening buzzing subsides, it leads into “To Attempt Openness,” where the Assembly choir kicks in full amid drone and swirling keyboards. The song eventually blows open, with King howling and shrieking away, and Buford’s drums obliterating and practically taking over the proceedings. It’s not exactly a moment of ease and kindness. “Melt Away” has more ringing keys, calls from the choir, and drums that seem to echo into time, with the band hitting a slow-driving tempo and the vocals carving a road to hell. “An Altar or a Grave” lurches slowly and painfully, with more buzzing noise spilling in like a swarm of giant hornets and a swell of strings proving added texture. The song’s an absolute monster, even the parts that feel more delicate. “Failure to Desire to Communicate” changes the pace as it kicks up the tempo and is heavy and ear-drubbing heavy. The song is loud and thick, the vocals sound like they come from a place of panic, and the track delivers a storm of psychological damage.

“Night of Blood in a World Without End” has Wolpert returning along with cascading strings and corrosion like it’s pouring out of a bitter, old battery. “Prayers Unanswered” is sweaty, muddy, and mean, with Buford’s drums detonating worlds, static spilling in again, the harsh shrieks hitting new levels of fear, and the conclusion sounding like a warped carnival. “Denial of the Species” has drone so thick it could make the great pioneers of doom choke hard, with watery eyes and pools of saliva. Synth boils, King’s vocals hiss with venom, and the strings wail and moan in the night. “Shrouded,” while not really an interlude, is more like the stage setter for the conclusion, as the song is full of white noise and bizarre beats. Closer “Bearer of Bad Tidings” heads right into a cloud of alien noise, more chaos, and squeaking, sharp noises, making you feel like you left the planet, or at least your body. Buford’s drums are like a machine, distributing slaughter and helping drive the doom assault that is ripping open the seal for Armageddon. Feedback bursts, King spits his last, and crust-crushing thunder brings that song and this ferocious record to a fitting end.

Truly, truly “Christs, Redeemers” is the soundtrack to the end of the world. There, I said it again, but I’ll try to say it no more until another record comes along as terrifying and existence-scorching as this one. You’ll stay awake at night grappling with your worst nightmares, you’ll see long-dead souls on your ceilings, and you’ll wonder when the terror will stop. This record’s that massive and tortuous, and your psyche is sure to be damaged once this record becomes a part of your DNA. Rest peacefully for now, because it sounds like the world’s annihilation isn’t going to a pretty, if The Body’s visions are correct.

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