without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Church of Misery's 'Master of Brutality' is an obvious nod at Black Sabbath's finest; 'Master of Reality'. And the influence that Sabbath had on these Japanese doomsters is undeniable. Church of Misery is basically the Black Sabbath of our age. They're wild, they're heavy, they play some of the grooviest heavy rock ever whilst singing about serial killers from all over. The album opens with "Killifornia (Ed Kemper)"; one of the album highlights. It starts with samples from an actual interview with Kemper (Church of Misery use these a lot) before a fat, wobbly bassline begins the song. It's slow, heavy and grooves. The music is Sabbathy; which is no surprise, but the band has always preferred rougher vocals than an "Ozzy clone". This is, to me, very positive, because it adds a very interesting contrast to the music. This would be even more evident in later albums with Hideki Fukasawa lending his pipes to the Church of Misery, but I'm taking nothing away from Yoshiaki Negishi who also has got some roughed up pipes, but a bit more southern (whiskey-soaked) than Fukasawa's more death metal-ish vocals.
"Megalomania (Herbert Mullin)" has to be the most kick-ass song on 'Master of Brutality'. It has a very groovy structure with simple, but awesome leads/solos, a groovy rhythm guitar/bass guitar that makes you want to shake your tush, tight drumming and of course the rough, stoner/southern rock vocals. The following track is an instrumental that deserves a mention as well. "Green River" is an instrumental featuring an groovy bassline soaked in effects and backed by a almost tribal percussion work.
Another interesting thing about Church of Misery is the fact that they always record a cover on each official full-length album. On 'Master of Brutality' they give us a great cover of Blue Öyster Cult's classic "Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll". It's pretty much follows the original's sound, but with the very heavy and rough nature of Church of Misery, this cover track becomes one of the highlights of a great stoner/doom album.
So to conclude this, we can say that the musicianship present on 'Master of Brutality' is great. Iommi and co. would be proud. The production is good too and fits the band's stylistic approach. But the most credit has to go to the man behind Church of Misery: Bassist Tatsu Mikami, who also happens to be the only member who has always been in the band (which is unfortunate, because it casts the band's future into doubts at times; most recently now in 2014). Mikami, who is one of the finest bassists out there, is also responsible for everything that has with Church of Misery to do, and regarding what happens, he should be proud of what he has created. Church of Misery has been around since the mid 90s, but has always been an underground sensation, so to speak. The band deserves more credit and recognition, but I don't care too much about the fame of the band, as long as Mikami continues this vessel of doom.
Formed as early as '95, Shinjuku, Japan stoner/doomers, Church of Misery, spent the remainder of the 90's releasing various splits and EPs and although recording their debut album, 'Vol I' in '97, the band decided against releasing it as it was sometime after the recording that the band wanted to focus lyrically just on writing about serial killers and murderers, which has been a staple of their career ever since. 'Master of Brutality' followed in '01, via Southern Lord Recordings, and is seen as the bands true debut, even if 'Vol I' was eventually released in '07.
Parodying the classic Black Sabbath album, 'Master of Reality,' Master of Brutality' set the stage for these doomy Japs, not just parodying but also borrowing a notable amount of influence from 70's Sabbath as well as other notable doom acts like Saint Vitus, Trouble and Pentagram (to name a few). Opening with a spoken sample and various noisy bits, 'Killifornia' eventually dives right in with slow crunchy doomy laden riffs, vibrant drumming, heavy bass and a gruff hippie voice leading the charge throughout this catchy intro song, while 'Ripping into Pieces' is fairly similar, and despite the title remains rather calm. 'Megalomania,' one of the albums finest, is up next and its an all-out rocker that I just utterly love, while 'Green River' is a full-on psychedelic instrumental that's once again reminiscent of the early 70's Black Sabbath song book.
'Cities on Flame' is a cover of the Blue Oyster Cult classic, and while true to the original for the most part, the extra rock out at the end and the overall doom punch behind it makes it all the more dynamic. The title track is quite spot on to the opener, even including a opening sample again, while the three bonus tracks on the 2012 re-release add no less than an additional 34 minutes of music to this debut.
'Master of Brutality' is a simple affair and the influences are more than obvious, but its quite the fun, catchy and worth while debut album. Church of Misery would and has gone on to record a few more examples of fine stoner/doom metal, and while they may never shake off their influences it surely hasn't stopped me from enjoying everything they've recorded.
Originally wrote for, Lunar Hypnosis: http://lunarhypnosis.blogspot.com/
Parodying the title of the famous Black Sabbath album "Master of Reality", this 2001 debut by Church of Misery firmly established the band as a prime and prime-evil force in the world of stoner / doom metal. Apart from "Cities on Flame", a Blue Oyster Cult cover, each song here has as its subject a notorious serial killer: Ed Kemper, Peter Sutcliffe, Herbert Mullin, Gary Ridgway and John Wayne Gacy. Lyrics have a first-person point-of-view to allow listeners to see the world as those infamous men might have seen it: something of the pain, the obsessive compulsion that the men can't overcome, or the desire to cleanse the world and humanity of accumulated filth that drove these men to their crimes can be seen. This isn't to excuse what they did; knowing what we do about the psychology of serial killers, their often horrific childhoods and family backgrounds, we can imagine that in their place we'd be no better than they are. We can feel some compassion for them and this should be enough to rouse us to action and ensure that future generations of children are not abused as several of these men were.
Enough of the lecture, let's get down to business. Opening track "Killfornia", dedicated to Ed Kemper who picked up university students in the San Francisco Bay / Oakland area, begins with spoken-voice field recordings before plunging into pile-driving riffs that are equal parts doom and hardcore accentuated with harder-than-hard drumming and crashing cymbals. The singing is sort of husky-voiced hippie-ish yet also precise and emphatic. As the song continues, solo lead guitar starts duelling with the rest of the music. Overall, this is a strong introduction to the rest of the album. "Ripping into Pieces", in spite of the title, is an easy-going track, the music coasting along almost languidly, though the lyrics are the real deal. Listeners might expect to hear something really frenzied, even if for a few moments, but ... sorry, no such luck. At least the sound is deep, solid, crunchy and slightly raw.
"Megalomania", dedicated to Mullin, has a hard-rocking rhythm and comes across as a celebratory, even triumphant song. After the serene instrumental "Green River", in which raindrop guitar tones repeat a melody over sparse drumming and go nowhere, CoM launch into the Blue Oyster Cult cover "Cities on Flame" which is a pleasant chuggy song with a retro-Seventies feel and a great rock-out near the end.
The title track mimics the first track in including a spoken-voice field recording as part of its warm-up before the laid-back steel riffs start and the vocals ease in. This is a huge concrete slab of serpentine guitar with a raw and sly edge, juggernaut rhythms and chunky riff sequences. Passages that sound a little hand-clappy dispel any notions the band might be angling for a commercial singles release with the track by featuring plenty of abrasive and animated guitar soloing and some very smoky guitar tones in all tha.t fretboard-n-picking activity. Slow-burning fire crackle powers those low-end muscular riff repetitions while drumming seems very lethargic as the song lumbers off into the sunset.
These guys conjure up an alternative version of Black Sabbath with cigarette-burned voices and a hard-edged hardcore attitude. (There is a similar band The Gersch who combined Sabbath style with hardcore influences and released an album in 2006 which I've reviewed in MA but of late this band hasn't been active.) Although CoM can sound a bit as if they always drive in the slow lane and the singer appears laid-back, their style is surprisingly sharp and precise. All songs are strictly stoner / doom metal in style with hardcore and some old Seventies hard rock influences; the band briefly goes experimental in the one instrumental piece. While the album might have been more interesting if the band had made experimentation part of all the songs here and toned down some of the Seventies rock-out or made it harsher in sound, on the whole it's a good no-nonsense debut
Picture a Black Sabbath in some alternate universe that wrote songs about mass murderers instead of occult imagery and darkness; that's Church of Misery in a nutshell. Outside of the proverbial casing, Church of Misery invests their musical credibility in the doom/stoner metal genetics, but with lyrical topics about specific murderers and serial killers. Although "Master of Brutality" was not the first full-length album recorded by this Japanese unit, it was the first complete record released, and a massive testament of fun-as-fuck doom/stoner metal paying honest homage to heavy metal's creators and other inspirational rock bands of the 70s at that. Hearing "Master of Brutality" sounds like a wormhole opened up in 1971 and sent these dudes lumbering into the depths of 2001, totally misplaced yet absolutely sensational in their demonstration of sharpness.
Just look at that album title: a total spin-off of Black Sabbath's "Master of Reality." And that's not a coincidence folks. As a matter of fact, the musical similarities are almost staggering, but not to the point of generic nausea. Their sound specifically includes a mega-heavy guitar rolling in slow-cooked riffs and a bass openly prowling in its own realm, clearer than a spring day in Valhalla. Not to imply the production is anywhere near polished or modern; the overall sound is filthy, analog-ish grit stripped right from the database of a charred soundboard, just the way it should be with this kind of material. Crispy guitar tones and doom go together so well; thank Satan these guys knew the deal.
It's quite a simple album in terms of its musicality, but that certainly does not subtract from the pleasurable forty minutes of old-fashioned substance within all six chapters. The record's core strength is the group's consistency, because there's never a dull riff or song; it's all just chunky, beefy, and totally awesome doom/stoner stuff met with rough, scalding vocals over the whole shebang. My favorite cut is "Megalomania (Herbert Mullin)” which exploits mountains of awesome guitar work and completely represents everything this kind of texture should. They remain devoid of error, and no punches are pulled during the closing title track which beats on for eleven minutes and never once abandons its sadistic rhythms and roiling chimes.
Their whole discography is excellent, but "Master of Brutality" is undeniably one of the group's finest offerings and a noteworthy demonstration of doom/stoner metal. You really can't go wrong with Church of Misery in general though, so do yourself a favor and discover this fantastic faction if you haven‘t already.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com