I’ve always been a big fan of Church of Misery. Their last record, Thy Kingdom Scum, was one of my 2013 favourites, and I’m still bummed out that their Canadian tour dates got cancelled that year. (I blame Ted Cruz. No, really.) But hey, should they get together for some North American dates, the formerly Japanese outfit shouldn’t have much trouble securing U.S. work visas this time around. Aside from founding father Tatsu Mikami, Church of Misery now boasts an all-American lineup, most notably with Blood Farmers’ Dave Szulkin on guitar. Scott Carlson of Repulsion fame also adds the most intelligible vocals I’ve ever heard on a CoM record—this might be the first time I can actually understand the lyrics!
On that note, the band sticks to a familiar topic: real-life murderers and serial killers. “The Hell Benders” gets things rolling, an eight-minute ode to a murderous clan from the 1870’s. The bass grooves are nice and thick here, as we’ve come to expect from Tatsu, with the guitar riffs closely aligned with the band’s Sabbath/Sleep worship. Definitely some shades of “Dragonaut” in this one. “Make Them Die Slowly” has an intro that’ll remind you of “Iron Man,” though they chuck a couple extra notes in there for good measure, picking up the pace into a mid-paced groove. “Dr. Death” is anchored by some solid stop-start riffs, crawling along at a snail’s pace. I detect a bit of an Earthride influence here—incidentally, ex-Earthride drummer Eric Little pounded the skins on this one.
The up-tempo blues of “River Demon” would sound right at home on their last record, in spite of the revamped lineup, while “Confessions of an Embittered Soul” is a slower, but equally bluesy number with a classic stoner/doom sound. “Murderfreak Blues” ends the album on an extended slow jam, sounding sorta like an eviler Sons of OTIS, complete with wah pedal. Although their lineup changes frequently, the signature sound remains the same. Another solid release.