5. CHRCH, “Unanswered Hymns” (Transylvanian Tapes/Battleground)

Chrch coverThere is a lot of doom to consume each year. It spills like a dark, muddy tidal wave, and  it is so hard to gather all of it, much less have it move you. But upon the first listen to Chrch’s debut offering “Unanswered Hymns,” I was instantly captivated. Three songs spread over 44 minutes that take their time to develop and spread atmosphere is what you will find on this album. It’s heavily melodic, constantly changing, and always memorable. At times the songs can be guttural and brutal, while at others it has elements of beauty and reflection. There is so much going on here, and the way the band constructs these songs is damn-near expert.

The band–vocalist Eva, guitarists Chris (who also provides backing vocals) and Shann, bassist Ben, and drummer Matt–make an immediate impact on opener “Dawning,” a 19:16 epic that’s chock full of anguish, power, and grit, but later takes on psychedelic colors. It’s one hell of a journey, and the band keeps you engaged and anticipating each new burst the entire way. It’s one of my favorite tracks of the year. “Stargazer” is the short one at a mere 11:45, with Eva’s shrieks crushing you, the doom fires raging, and the band dragging you off into the night. Closer “Offering” rips right open, with the singing pointed and expressive, the tempo hulking along, and the band letting the final moments bathe in a sizzle. It’s such an impressive record, and the fact that it’s the band’s first is damn scary.

Chrch guitarist Chris was kind enough to answer some questions about our No. 5 record of the year, and he gets right to the point about the band’s music, what goes into its creation, the impressive bands with whom they’ve shared stages this year, and what 2016 has in store for the band (hint: some really big shows). (Released April 9)

ChrchMeat Mead Metal: “Unanswered Hymns” made an immediate impression and has remained one of our most listened-to records of this year. How does the record feel to you now that it’s been out there for consumption and you’ve continued to play these songs?

Chris: For us, the songs have stood the test of time. It took us quite a long time to develop the songs and they still have the emotional impact that they had in the beginning. It feels great to finally have physical copies of the record.

MMM: This album has a couple different labels involved–from Transylvanian Tapes to

Battleground Records. Was this something you planned before or during recording, to spread out the formats to different labels? Or did this come about afterward?

Chris: We never expected this recording to be so well received. We recorded it as a demo and had planned to just put it out on CD ourselves.  After we recorded it, Transylvanian Tapes approached us about a tape, and we worked that out with him. We still had plans to release the CD ourselves. Battleground heard it and approached us about the LP. It all happened quickly and we’re still blown away by its reception. We ended up getting a second press of tapes within a month of the initial press.

MMM: Not much is known about the intent of your music from a lyrical/philosophical standpoint. What do you care to share about Chrch’s mission and what you tried to accomplish on “Unanswered Hymns”?

Chris: We just wanted to create music that moves us as humans.  

MMM: The band has a nice mix of light and dark elements, from guttural, churning passages to parts where there’s more atmosphere and lush singing. Do you see these elements doing battle or acting more as a complement to each other? Where do they come from?

Chris: A little bit of both. As in life, there always exists contrast. Sometimes that contrast complements one another; other times the contrast seems like a battle. Some of the major themes represented within this album are longing, sorrow, and the hope for redemption.

MMM: The band has shared stages with some pretty impressive groups this year, from YOB to Pentagram to Ufomammut to Usnea. What were those experiences like for the band, and what did you take away from those situations?

Chris: Every show we played this year was its own unique experience. Being able to play with the aforementioned bands, whom we have all looked up to and respected for years, was beyond incredible. Sharing the stage with some of our biggest musical influences, it’s truly a considerable honor and a great experience.

MMM: How do you feel the band has grown and developed this year, from putting out a great debut to getting out on the road more and doing shows? Do you notice a greater interest in the band? Do you feel “Unanswered Hymns” gained traction with people?

Chris: Everything has happened at an overwhelming rate. It still feels like we just recorded, and now people all over the world have the LP in their hands. Before this band, none of us had played music together, so it’s awesome to see it develop into what it’s become.  

MMM: Finally, what is the band looking forward to in 2016 and beyond? Any new recording ideas? More touring? Something else?

Chris: We are looking forward to touring Europe for a little over three weeks in March and April. We are honored to have been invited to play Roadburn. We’ll also be playing Doom Over Leipzig while we’re there. After that, we have some more touring and shows planned. We’re currently writing and have plans to record.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/chrchdoomca

To buy the album (vinyl), go here: http://battlegroundrecords.bigcartel.com/

Or here (digital): https://churchdoom.bandcamp.com/releases

Or here (cassette): http://transylvaniantapes.bandcamp.com/album/church-unanswered-hymns

For more on the label, go here: https://battlegroundrecords.bandcamp.com/

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