|Artist||Church of Misery|
|Release||And Then There Were None...|
|Label||Rise Above Records|
|Release Date||March 4, 2016|
When 3/4 of your band suddenly leave (One of which had played with the band nearly fifteen years!) some changes are going to happen in some way one or another. Tatsu Mikami being the sole mastermind behind the serial killing sounds of Church of Misery actually took a different approach to the next album by collaborating with musicians outside of Japan. While at one point Australian guitarist Tom Sutton (The Order of Israfel) joined along this was a whole different ballgame, working entirely with musicians outside his native soil. Needless to say the musicians recruited only added to the intrigue, procuring guitarist Dave Szulkin (Blood Farmers), drummer Eric Little (Earthride, Internal Void) and Scott Carlson (Repulsion, Cathedral) as the new vocalist.
The first thing upon picking up my copy of the CD was a nice 1960s retro design with a smirking man and a title shared with a goddamned Agatha Christie novel. The back cover features a collage of the serial killers subjected in each song on a murky background of rustic greens and coagulated reds among a dedication to fallen musicians Jason McCash (The Gates of Slumber) and Joey LaCaze (Eyehategod). This is as the music comes on, opening with a man being brutally beaten to death on a stormy night transitioning with a creeping psychedelic guitar, mind-warping effects, a drum march, Mikami's trademark thick neck-driven bass...
Then the riff pounds in transitioning from lucidity to down and dirty grooves as Scott Carlson joins in with a menacing voice and lyricism of a family murdering travelers in an inn transitioning to straight up blues. This is "The Hell Benders", telling one of a half-dozen tales of different serial killers from their perspective as Church of Misery always does it. This is doom metal inspired by 70s rock at it's earliest and rawest, just the way they want it. "Make Them Die Slowly" is a twisted mid-tempo but infectious with a riff that burns like the hydrochloric acid one John George Haigh would have used. Just when it gets it's grooviest samples related to the aformentioned Haigh (A common theme in Church of Misery songs) before a lucid solo get in the action. But even with the slower tempo material there's more up-tempo swinging tunes such as the Wicked World-esque "River Demon". If you've never heard this band expect the catchiest songs you'll ever hear about people who murdered in cold blood!
Scott Carlson as vocalist fits this band very well with a twisted delivery that ranges from sounding just as much harsh as it is melodic. While Hideki Fukasawa's garbled maniacal growls worked in the context, Carlson is just a good as the stark storyteller to the 70s rockin' soundtrack here! To top it off this is one of the few Church of Misery albums to have full lyrics printed as if you couldn't grasp every twisted word of the stories behind folks like Leonarda Cianciulli in the downtrodden paranoia of "Confessions of an Embittered Soul". "Suicide Journey (Heaven's Gate Cult)" serves as a short dreamy break from the doomed chaos before the punishing bluesy closer of "Murderfreak Blues (Tommy Lynn Sells)".
Overall, it's a solid Church of Misery album with a few subtle twists. Little and Szulkin fit the bluesy doom resume to a tee, complimenting Mikami's massive bass tone. I wanted to say it's a "back-to-basics" approach as far as the song structures but that would be inaccurate as the band has always followed this mold. It's more "stripped down" if anything, not being balls-to-the-wall chaotic compared to classic CoM tunes like "Shotgun Blues" or "Candy Man" (Another example would be the general tone of The Gates of Slumber's "The Wretch" compared to the previous two albums by that same band). The mixing/mastering by longtime contributors O-MI Kihara and Souichirou Nakamura reflects this and sounds a bit clearer than previous efforts but still a ball-busting loud. The biggest departure if anything besides the choice of musicians was the lack of a cover of an obscure 70s band, only leaviing room for more horrifying tales. In closing it's a different kind of sermon from the long-running Japanese doom band but a satisfying one all it's own with just enough to feel right at home.