Sucker For Punishment: Well, Don’t Die Just Yet

Late last year I finally came around to Portland (by way of Rhode Island) duo The Body, whose album Christs, Redeemers won me over. Yes, it followed the same direction as the lauded All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood, but it felt more refined, more powerful. However, the prolific duo of Chip King and Lee Buford had something completely different up their sleeves all the while, something that would instantly render everything they’ve done in the past plain in comparison.
I Shall Die Here (Rvng) sees the pair collaborating with London producer Bobby Krlic, whose work as The Haxan Cloak (especially last year’s album Excavation) explores the darker, murkier side of electronic music, and it is simply a revelation. The Body’s gargantuan doom has been stripped down considerably, adorned with subtle electronic tweaks and glitches, but at the same time feels even more primal, a melding of organic and mechanical sounds that feed off each other, enhancing either side. Deep down it’s a familiar formula – creating a sense of horror via atmosphere and brutality – but as tracks like “Hail to Thee, Everlasting Pain” and “Darkness Surrounds Us” show, it’s done here with such theatricality and artistry, the avant-garde and the gutter not only meeting, but fitting. The only way metal will break new ground in this day and age is by reaching outside the genre’s constraints and employ more nontraditional sounds, and the real challenge in that is to remain true to metal’s tenets while broadening that scope. Deafheaven tried valiantly and ultimately failed in its attempt last year, but The Body has succeeded, finding a perfect bedfellow in Krlic and creating a distillation of metal and electronic music that few have ever been able to pull off. Preview and purchase via Bandcamp.

As it it would happen, another The Body release has been sprung upon us in the last week, this time a new collaboration with fellow sludgemeisters Thou. Contrary to I Shall Die Here, you know exactly how Released From Love (Vinyl Rites) is going to sound: a dense, punishing exploration of the two bands’ common interests. However, while three tracks tread predictable territory – neither bad nor amazing – a fantastic little curveball is thrown in the form of a harrowing, spectacular cover of Vic Chesnutt’s 2009 song “Coward”. That track alone is a must-hear. Purchase it here.

Also out this week:

Anette Olzon, Shine (Armoury): A year and a half after her ugly split with Nightwish, Anette Olzon has released her solo debut, and if you’re aware of her personal pop proclivities, then you’ll know exactly what to expect with this record. If you’re expecting something resembling symphonic metal, however, you’ll be disappointed. This is mildly pleasant, yet overly safe adult contemporary music that references mid-90’s alternative rock – it’s amazing how many people still think trip hop is “modern” – with the odd good hook but nowhere near enough contrast to ground Olzon’s overly wispy emoting.

Black Label Society, Catacombs of the Black Vatican (eOne): Much to my own surprise, I actually liked enough of Black Label Society’s 2010 album Order of the Black to give it a mild recommendation. After years and years of underachieving, Zakk Wylde finally pulled himself up by the bootstraps and sharpened his songwriting. Four years later, he’s sunk back into the lazy rut he was in before, churning out tepid, grungy songs laced with pinch squeals and hookless, marble-mouthed singing. Only two songs on this album work: the spirited “Damn the Flood” and the shockingly strong Skynyrd-esque ballad “Angel of Mercy”. The rest is a cynical, lazy effort, complacent in the knowledge that it’ll be lapped up by Wylde’s devoted fanbase, no matter how awful it is.

Cormorant, Earth Diver (self-released): The California band went through a bit of an overhaul when it parted ways with bassist/vocalist/lyricist Arthur von Nagel, which was lousy timing considering the universal acclaim the second album Dwellings received. Not that anyone should have doubted it, but the guys have returned with a new bassist and vocalist in Marcus Luscombe and a bracing new album that once again serves up a hybrid of black metal, death, doom, pagan, prog, and the more traditional side of heavy metal. At times the music tends to lean in a decidedly Agalloch-derived direction, which is all well and good, but this record is at its best when Cormorant is forging its own path. Thankfully those moments are in abundance on a magnificent album full of power, variety, and color, best exemplified by the raging “Daughter of Void” and the vibrant “The Pythia”. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Delain, The Human Contradiction (Napalm): The Dutch band doesn’t bring anything new to the prom dress metal table, but what sets them apart is how gracefully it pulls off a sound often so awash in bombast and melodrama. With Delain, song craft is of utmost importance, and over the course of the last five years the quintet has grown into a formidable act by keeping its approach simple, following the lead of Within Temptation yet brave enough to let its own personality come out. This fourth album faithfully continues in that direction, delivering pleasantly catchy songs while showing subtle growth throughout, namely in the growing confidence of Charlotte Wessels as a singer and lyricist. She came into her own on 2012’s We Are the Others, and to no one’s surprise she carries the entire album, her likeable persona and tasteful singing a huge reason why tracks like “Stardust”, “Your Body is a Battleground”, and “Tell Me, Mechanist” are so appealing. With the success of this record, and in the wake of Within Temptation’s befuddling, underachieving Hydra, Delain has staked a serious claim to the title of the best such band working today.

Graviators, Motherload (Napalm): Pleasant, Sabbath-derived doom in the vein of California revivalists Orchid, but while it’s a decent homage overall, the songs simply don’t leap out at the listener like they should. You’ve got to step up your game if you want people to spend their hard-earned money on your music. This just doesn’t cut it.

Skogen, I Döden (Nordvis): For all this Norwegian band’s attempts to sound evil, the melodies it brings forth on this new album are so luminous it’s damn near pleasant. So much so, in fact, that every time these epic tracks veer into harsher territory it feels boring in comparison. Stay in the sunshine, guys! You have a good thing going here.

Trollfest, Kaptein Kaos (NoiseArt): Back in 2007 I gave Korpiklaani’s Tervaskanto a 9 out of 10 in an issue of Decibel, and it’s haunted me ever since. At the time the music still felt fresh and downright soulful, with melancholy underscoring the celebratory vibe, but seven years later, I just want humppa metal to die thanks to cartoonish joke bands like Trollfest.

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