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Debut first shot in mastering brutal stoner doom - 80%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, October 13th, 2012

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