Church of Misery – “And Then There Were None….” (Rise Above Records)
Church of Misery (or if you prefer the Japanese – Chāchi obu Mizarī) are probably Nippon’s best known doom-meisters, having been around since the mid 90s, releasing 5 prior full length albums, not mention numerous EPs, split and compilation releases. Equally active live, they have toured across the US and Europe, where clearly a favorite, they hold the record for playing the Roadburn Festival no less than five times. As it stands, following their 2014 summer tour, the entire line up quit, leaving bassist Tatsu Mikami the only remaining member of the group! However, having been through numerous prior line up changes, Mikami simply upped and left for the US, recruiting an all star round eye line up in Blood Farmers guitarist Dave ‘Depraved’ Szulkin, Earthride drummer Eric Little (ex-Internal Void) and Repulsion front man Scott Carlson (ex-Cathedral) on vocals (and lyrics) to complete this album. Still fixated by mass murderers and serial killers, opener ‘The Hell Benders’ takes its title from “Django” director Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 spaghetti western, which was itself inspired by the notorious Bender family murders that terrorized frontier Kansas in the 1870s. Other tracks on acid bath murderer John George Haigh and doctor death Harold Shipman will ensure Europeans don’t feel left out! With its poetic title, this album is a radical departure in just about every sense. Gone is the compacted psych fuzz sound of prior releases and the less prominent, tortured vocals of Hideki Fukasawa. Instead, there’s more of a rolling stoner groove to match the still monster Sabbathy riffs, with Carlson’s 50 year-old gravelly vocal chords being up front in what is a very clear mix on songs like ‘Make Them Die Slowly’ and ‘Murderfreak Blues’. In fact, the whole album, while being certainly well executed, has a very western feel comparable to other top of the line US and Euro stoner / doom outfits, so I’m not sure if Mikami is capitalizing on where the band’s success clearly lies and this is a prelude to indeed, a relocation from the land of the rising sun?