Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Dave Cutbush’s Top 10 Albums of 2015

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

LIFE IS NOISE’s head honcho shares his favourite releases from 2015, with Elder, High On Fire and Shlohmo among the year’s best.

10. Sunn O))) – Kannon
The drone giants Sunn O))) return in 2015 with another crushing display in the form of Kannon. It is heavy, it is slow, it is fearful and it is imposing. My only criticism is that it is a little short. I wanted more than just the three songs. Who knows, perhaps this is just a tease for another Sunn O))) album in 2016. After all, six years is too long to wait for such epic majesty.

9. Echoes of Yul – The Healing
The Black Captain introduced me to Polish act Echoes of Yul. Ever since I have loved their work. You can read The Black Captain’s review here. I love the dreamy dark quality of this record. It is a melancholic masterpiece.

8. Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
Windhand return with the their third record Grief’s Infernal Flower. As heavy as ever and featuring the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Dorthia Cottrell, Windhand have a great balance between the depth and crushing on one had and the ethereal and haunting on the other. Grief’s Infernal Flower is a consistently good album and confirms Windhand’s pre-eminence in the worldwide doom revival.

7. Church – Unanswered Hymns
My favourite debut album of the year came out of the blue from Church (or Chrch as they are now known). Unanswered Hymns has a musical bed of depravity and destruction with vocals that sound like a demon sacrificing a virgin on a satanic altar on top. An occult masterpiece from these Californian natives.

6. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Sufjan returns to his folk roots on record number seven. He gets to me when he is super sad, and on this album he is at times at his most serenely melancholic. ‘Should Have Known Better’ is my favourite in this respect. It is what folk music should be and most often isn’t. Stripped away from the overburdening production of previous work, Carrie and Lowell gets down to basics. It has beautiful melodies and thought provoking lyrics. Dare I say it — a return to form for Stevens.

5. Ahab – The Boats of Glen Carrig
Funeral doom/nautical doom/progressive rock/post-rock whatever. The Boats of Glen Carrig may be an interesting fusion of styles packaged in their ever expanding worlds of boats and krakens and wrecks but when you boil it down it is just a great heavy record. Super riffs aplenty, great clean vocals and brutal growls. Super catchy in a destructive way.

4. Drowning Horse – Sheltering Sky
The latest Drowning Horse album is totally crushing. Read The Black Captain’s review here. No other words need be spoken.

3. Shlohmo – Dark Red
Shlohmo is a consistently amazing electronic producer. His latest album Dark Red is no exception to this. He inhabits a dark and weird world most of today’s beatmakers dare not inhabit. But the final word on this should come from the press release for the album, where we are told Dark Red would sound like “if Electric Wizard tried to make an R&B record, or if Boards of Canada met Burzum by the River Styx” – maybe not true but certainly an interesting concept.

2. High On Fire – Luminiferous

Lyrically mind-altering and musically earth-shattering, the latest effort from High on Fire is another pummelling journey from the metal three-piece and a great addition to their great catalogue. All members are in great form. Des Kensel’s drumming is relentless, Jeff Matz’ bass work is as always without fault and team leader Matt Pike’s vocals and guitar work have reached a new pinnacle. But with all the Motorhead-style fast fury, it is the slower tracks that stand out for me. ‘The Falconist’ has a sneering menace, while ‘The Cave’ is the standout for me. High on Fire have developed as a band with Luminiferous. There is power aplenty but listen further and you can reach other dimensions.

1. Elder – Lore
In 2015 nothing beat the power riffs and melodic mastery of Lore from Massachusetts band Elder. It is a tip of the hat to the iconic rock legends of the 70s but Lore is a furious modern stoner take on all things psych and doom. I love how Elder meld various passages in their songs so seamlessly. At times monolithic and bludgeoning and at others beautiful and delicate, Lore is impressive from first to last listen. It’s an album I have punished but continues to give me great joy every time I put it on. Thanks Elder – you just keep getting better.

Honourable Mentions
Vhol – Deeper Than Sky
Glowsun – Beyond the Wall of Time
Hope Drone – Cloak of Ash
Sumac – The Deal
Dungen – Allas Sak
Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
Tangled Thoughts of Leaving – Yield to Despair
Kowloon Walled City — Grievances
We Lost The Sea – Departure Songs
Ecstatic Vision – Sonic Praise
Built to Spill – Untethered Moon
Fourteen Nights at Sea – Minor Light
Joanna Newsom – Divers
Wrekmeister Harmonies – Night of Your Ascension

Church — Unanswered Hymns

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

It is an uncommon thrill that a band’s first release brings with it the promise of a great future. What is rarer and verging on the surreal is when a first release clearly shows that a group of artists are already the real deal, deserving of being spoken alongside the greats that inspire them. Whilst it might be preferable to avoid “inflicting” hyperbole upon first steps, once in a long, long while the response to a new project can be so viscerally moving that it seems unavoidable. It takes time and consideration to be sure, to understand that something is more than just a novelty in the context of a vast and lengthy listening experience. When something makes you feel that way you did when you first fell in love with a particular musical style, such esteem becomes undeniable and essential to express.

Church are a doom metal band formed in recent years out of Sacramento, California. They are Eva on vocals, Matt on drums, Ben taking bass duties, and Shann and Chris responsible for guitars (the later contributing some backing vocals to their work and the individual responsible for bringing the band together). After starting live performances in early 2014, Church released their first songs in April 2015, Unanswered Hymns, through Transylvanian Tapes. The cassette version became available just over a week ago and later this year a 180g vinyl edition is planned for release through Battleground Records. The band’s ethos is that the music should “speak for itself”. It must then be said that, from the first moments, their eloquence is astounding. Church sound like they were born to speak this way.

“Dawning” opens Unanswered Hymns at 19 minutes in length. Introduced by a riff that succinctly clarifies where Church reside on the heavy spectrum, it is when the bass and drums join in that the sound sucks all of the breath out of you, immediately elevating the composers above the dense proliferation within the stream. The guitars are so dense, rough, and filthy, but without severing any of the detail and clarity. With the distorted bass and monstrous drumming ominously filling space behind them, Church billow forth as something primal yet musically articulate and succinct. Nothing is lost in going for such power and volume, in reaching for a production that is blissfully suffocating with its weight.

The result is an atmosphere that is immense and precipitous, put together in commanding fashion. With each engaging and meditative movement, “Dawning” relentlessly creates an epic listening experience, climaxing with an oozing tidal wave of aggression like watching all that you hold dear consumed by an inferno in oneiric slow motion. Church clearly understand that the path to great doom is through simplicity and patience, gradually adding details that amplify the drama of a piece to a level of crushing gravitas. The standard is set very high for the songs ahead.

“Stargazer” follows on from the dark and restless trepidation of “Dawning” as a song awash with profound melancholia. It has been written here before: there is something triumphant in the deepest, most heartfelt doom, even when it is at its darkest and most mournful. “Stargazer” exemplifies this. It is grief at its most pure and vulnerable, spoken of to the world from a place where the artist is completely consumed by such feeling… whilst knowing that there is something better, one’s sights fixed firmly upon the light and possibility from the position of complete loss. After the chilling screams and funereal procession of riffs that compose the song’s beginnings, a gorgeous and lachrymose lead wails onwards, so simple and elegant in its sadness, so full of longing for what is beyond the pain of the immediate. “Stargazer” is a reminder that when doom is played with such emotional sincerity there is not much else around in the world of heavy music quite as powerful and satisfying. There are bonus points for the Tom G. Warrior grunt on 7:57. It’s rare that a familiar garnish on a creation is such a perfect touch.

The final track is “Offering”, retaining all the characteristics Church have exhibited on the first two tracks whilst momentarily bringing the tempo up (just ever so slightly). Initially, the song takes things a little more towards a stoner rock direction. Whereas “Dawning” may have been more baleful in its aggression, like gazing into the eyes of a gorgon, “Offering” paces about the room like a wild beast on the verge of erupting in a fit of destructive cruelty. Midway, the riffs transform back into a creeping funereal mantra, building ominously towards denouement. Gradually, the dirge disintegrates into a malevolent altered state of feedback-driven noise, fading into exhausted calm.

Whilst the instrumental aspects of Unanswered Hymns are just dripping with quality, there is no question as to what lifts Church up to the divine. The vocals of Eva Rose on this release are simply spectacular. Her shrieks, backed up by the bellows of guitarist Chris, are like gale force storms of ice upon your skin. The clean lyrical passages, each one of them ethereal and stately masterpieces, are filled with beauty and menace all at once. Every word is sung with such intense feeling and distinctive tone, crowning the music with that sincerity that burns as Church’s soul.

As previously inferred, it has taken some time to get around to writing about Unanswered Hymns. The effect it has is so powerful and personally resonant that one has to take the time to be sure, pinching yourself until you bleed, to wake up from the dream they have created. With considerable reflection, the songs are definitely up there with many of the great doom records heard across decades. Church’s will to create emotion on such an epic scale is irresistible. One becomes overwhelmed and completely lost in the scale of their solemn overtures and the tremendously heavy sound invoked to create them. You could not ask for more from music of this style.

Unanswered Hymns is out now through Transylvanian Tapes.

The Black Captain hosts RTRFM’s Brain Blood Volume this weekend at 1am (+7GMT), Sunday the 21st.