It’s been four years and two new members since Rhode Island/New York-based Churchburn put out their debut album, The Awaiting Coffins, but the wait is now over with None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery, a monster of an album that combines black, death, sludge, and doom with much success. And it combines them with much atmosphere too, the album just enveloping, crushing, and destroying the listener and any hope they had of having a good day before putting on this seven song, 46-minute behemoth.
Drummer Ray McCaffrey (ex-Grief) says that he’s very excited about this release, and says it shows more diversity in the band’s songwriting and overall approach.
“Also a maturity since the last one,” he says. “[Guitarist/vocalist] Dave [Suzuki, ex-Vital Remains] and I have been doing this project now for seven years and many beers together. I feel the first one was more of a collection of thoughts and glimpses of what we wanted to do musically and the direction we wanted to achieve. I believe we did that. Sorta like an introduction. With this new release, we’re kinda sharpening our approach and telling a more fluid story.”
And the story that is told is not a happy one, the band dragging the listener deep through the aforementioned atmosphere, which is oppressive, intense, and full of… feeling.
“That was the point for these songs, and I’m glad that you felt something once the song was over,” says Suzuki. “The topics for these songs are definitely bleak and horrifying. The music and the atmosphere was intentional, due to the lyrical content. It wasn’t enough to simply write a song and put lyrics over them. There had to be an uneasy mood to the songs so that there would be more of an impact of what I’m screaming about. That led to me asking a fellow Rhode Islander, Andy Grant from The Vomit Arsonist, to help out on the harsh atmosphere and ambience throughout the album. His input was subtle but exactly what I hoped for. And for added texture, we asked our former bass player, Mike Cardoso, to help us out on backing vocals.”
As for the new members since last album, that would be guitarist Timmy St. Amour (ex-Howl) and bassist/vocalist Derek Moniz, both of whom are settling into their roles quite nicely, if the material and performances on None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery are any indication.
“Timmy and Derek have been great additions to the band,” says McCaffrey. “Both are super solid and bring a wealth of experience. Timmy was a major force in his last band, Howl. Derek has been a professional musician for over 20 years. Timmy has been with us about three years now. He joined right after the last album. When Timmy joined, he had an impact right away. He was really instrumental in helping refine the sound of these songs and this album. Him and Dave just really, really gel, ya know? Derek is as solid as they come. Derek joined a little later in the writing process of this album but made a huge impact, like night and day impact, in his approach to these songs and the band. I consider myself very, very lucky to be able to play with these guys.”
Which brings us back to the album, and, again, the atmosphere it creates. The excellent cover art helps, courtesy of Nestor Avalos (“He has a very strong essence of darkness in his work,” says Suzuki, “which enables him to create such beautiful and haunting pieces of art.”), but the music drives it home, the feeling of total despair just taking over as the album goes on.
“I want the listener to feel the hopelessness I felt while gathering and writing the lyrics for the new songs along with the music combined,” says Suzuki. “If we can convey that sort of emotion while you listen to this album, then our job is complete.”