There are those records you put on that almost immediately clue you into something not being right. It’s not just that it’s heavy and smothering, because so many metal albums are that and take little effort to be that. I’m talking the ones that carve into your soul and make you feel morbid things you ordinarily would not want to be around ever.
If you’ve ever spent any time with the music from Indiana blackened doom monsters Coffinworm, you know that these guys go beyond just making heavy music. There is something disturbing and filthy going on beneath all the noise, and getting to where they are operating to understand the murk isn’t something that’s necessarily in your best interests. There are disturbing images, borderline criminal thoughts, and things lurking that can force you to experience true psychological torment and terror. It’s not a record that will make you feel good inside or bathe you in sunshine and happiness, and that’s a major reason why the band’s punishing new record “IV.I.VIII” is such a scarring, mind-destroying experience. It’s not just a heavy metal record. It’s a journey through torment and pain. Or, if we want a super up-to-date reference, it’s Carcosa without the pine air fresheners.
The band first sliced their way into the attention of the metal underground with their astonishing 2010 debut “When All Became None,” a record you could tell was warped and depraved simply by reading the song titles. It offered something new to the doom genre, an album that made you feel sick and uncomfortable inside, one that made you wonder if you weren’t peering into someone’s broken world you weren’t supposed to see. The new one (with eerie cover at by Scott Shellhamer) just ups the ante on all of that, and the dark shadows and impending chaos awaiting you on this six-track beast should make you nervous and shaky inside. But, if you’re like me, you’ll be compelled to rip right into the thing, because it’s just impossible to turn away from bloody carnage, isn’t it? Human horrors and mental damage are a part of so many of our lives, that maybe some of this will hit home a little too hard. But dig in anyway, and prepare to unearth some skeletons.
Coffinworm are comprised of figures as mysterious and dark as their name and music. On vocals is the monstrous, lurching D, whose delivery and menace would be bone shattering if he was wailing a capella. He’s that effective and believable. On guitars are C (who switched over from drums) and G, on bass is T, and behind the drums is J. The band sludges and hulks through these songs, sometimes speeding up to make you catch up with them with your chest burning, but mostly they’re taking their time pounding away, and you are screamed at and taunted vocally, with nowhere to run but further into the deviance and death. And getting the most of the band’s sound is producer Sanford Parker, whose reputation precedes him and certainly draws out the right amount of ugliness from these guys.
The insanity begins on “Sympathectomy,” a track that ignites with blackness from the start, with crazed growls, howling noises encircling you, and a massive, devastating tempo that hits you like a slow-moving, but terribly heavy truck. Shrieks erupt, the tones gets smeary and slurry, and the grisly chaos dissolves into a pocket of noise. “Instant Death Syndrome” grinds and smothers from the start, feeling both damaged and mesmerizing, before it kicks up its pace with the drums fueling the killing machine. The vocals are completely unhinged and terrifying, and eventually calm acoustics come in that, weirdly, make you feel anything but serene. “Black Tears” is plodding and dreary, with the band pushing forward looking to kill and kill on the first half of the track. It’s another that sets a muddy, deliberate pace, but it also is something that is a red herring. Just when you think the song is trickling out, the violence returns at a more aggressive pace, with the band blasting you, D howling like there’s no hope anywhere in the universe, and the whole thing slipping into wind-whipped drone that could redden your skin.
“Lust vs. Vengeance” really needs no explanation, because the title is descriptive enough. But we’ll go ahead anyway. The guitars charge up and get the blood flowing, and vocals sound like they’re emanating from a guilt-ridden monster, looking to exorcise demons or at least the pressure building up inside his body. The music is sludgy and mean, there are strange noises that sound like they arrived from space, and the growling gets under your skin and infects. “Of Eating Disorders and Restraining Orders” is another that reveals itself to you merely in its name, but then you take a trip into dark slurry terror, trippy effects, torture-laced vocals, and long periods of sweltering playing that comes off like they are beating you into a plea for mercy. The last part of the song flattens and pulverizes, with the vocals hitting a deranged pitch, and the whole thing bleeding out in a sea of desperate screams and noise. Closer “A Death Sentence Called Life” opens with dissonant guitars, drums building up the tension, and growls and shrieks that both threaten and warn. The pace is dizzying throughout, and as it goes on, D’s vocals are practically spat out, like he’s trying to rid himself of something harmful. It’s a dark, haunting cut that gives you a true indication of the suffering that goes on in people’s minds, and even though the final moments are kind of tranquil, you never get the sense that anything is even remotely OK. In fact, you might feel like your lungs are coated in soot after having witnessed all of the destruction and burning even though it was completely psychological and not physical.
Coffinworm are one of those metal bands that are legitimately scary and unsettling and not just going through the motions. Their albums can scar your mind if you fully engage with them, and “IV.I.VIII” is no exception. Coffinworm’s music isn’t for those who need gloss, hooks, and fun. Their records are for the dark, suffering, permanently damaged among us, the ones who struggle every day to acknowledge the good in life and wallow in the shadows. These guys mean this, and you can feel that in every bit of what they do. This record should be hailed for the deathly doom titan that is is, and maybe it should give you a little bit of guilt reveling in something that clearly took a lot of suffering to get to you.
For more on the band, go here: http://coffinworm.net/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/