Album Review: CHURCH OF MISERY And Then There Were None
Japan is responsible for foisting many an iconoclastic, genre-busting band upon the world. Particularly in the realm of extreme music the Land of the Rising Sun is a long-established hotbed of forward thinking bands, from Sigh to the Boredoms to Boris and Acid Mothers Temple. Stoner-inflected doom band Church of Misery are more of an anomaly in that sense; hardly a trend-setter, the band toil in a fairly boilerplate groove-oriented niche that's both mild by doom standards while also being a little too melodic and accessible for full on sludge. Nonetheless, their work has a heavy Southern US influence, falling somewhere between the 70's boogie of Pepper-era C.O.C. and the bottom-heavy riffs of a Mastodon or Clutch.
It's a deceptively digestible musical premise for their one note lyrical preoccupation, which is and always has been 100% dominated by serial killers (aside from a handful of cover songs over the years). Sort of a stoner version of death metal band Mortician, each of Church of Misery's songs focus on an individual serial killer. Truthfully, unless you're a closet criminologist the band's lyrics start to become wallpaper pretty quick, especially when – as on current opus And Then There Were None – the group have long used up the household names and are now digging up third tier ghouls with names like Harold Shipman and Leonarda Cianciulli. Again, the Mortician parallels skew toward the uncanny, at least thematically.
All of which is to say that Church of Misery rely heavily on the strength of their music, which bears a strong familiarity that could be equal parts turn on or turn off depending on one's propensity for well-trodden groove. Certainly the riffs on "Make Them Die Slowly" and "River Demon" do not exactly color outside the lines, attempting instead to scratch a familiar itch in the vein of bluesy sludge or, if you will, pop doom. There's a scrappy, engaging consistency here that's every bit as hard to dislike as it is to rave profusely over; this is music too modest in ambition to overanalyze, but it nonetheless manages not to get too hamstrung under its own relative slightness.
And Then There Were None is bookended by its two longest tracks – "The Hell Benders" and "Murderfreak Blues" – which cumulatively showcase a band that doesn't boast a lot of riffs in their wheelhouse, but know how to stretch the ones they have over a satisfactory progression. In the end, though, "satisfactory" is kind of the keyword here: Church of Misery are a band to listen to when you've already exhausted similar-if-superior offerings by the likes of Weedeater and Clutch, less a gateway stoner outfit than one that demands attention only when one has become fully immersed in the scene.