Church of Misery
Thy Kingdom Scum
CD & Vinyl
Rise Above Records»
Whilst the seventies have never really gone away in popular culture, they seem increasingly hard to ignore. The 2010 remake of I Spit On Your Grave, rumours of a Kojak movie (with Vin Diesel as said detective, god help us all), an imminent Black Sabbath tour… Musically, certainly, we seem to owe a greater debt to the decade as the years go by. In March, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats played their first official shows at the Garage in London, stirring up a packed crowd with their mind-altering blend of 'retro' metal and late sixties weirdness (posters of Sharon Tate stared out at the audience and portable TV screens broadcast static on a stage more than a little reminiscent of early Marilyn Manson shows). It's an influence detectable throughout a lot of current rock/metal offerings, and particularly innovatively done by Japanese doom-metallers Church of Misery.
Since their formation in 1995, Church of Misery have presented fans with a successful package that melds their love of Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, et al with some of the harshest doom sounds known to man, all tied together with a bloody serial killer thread. The cover of their first official full length album, Master of Brutality, was graced with a photo of John Wayne Gacy, and 2009's Houses of the Unholy with Albert Fish being shepherded into a police car. Thy Kingdom Scum is their first full length album since Houses of the Unholy, and doesn't skimp on any of the expected elements.
Opening with some groovy guitar work over interview footage with Dennis Rader (the 'BTK killer'), first track B.T.K. segues seamlessly into headbanging, gravelly doom and sets the mood for the next fifty minutes. The serial killer sampling continues throughout most of the album - it's interesting but not intrusive (and nowhere near as in your face as power electronics offerings like Deathpile's G.R.), and as a result seems little more than a gimmick at times. More interesting is a track like Lambs to the Slaughter that - as a homage to Ian Brady and Myra Hindley - holds its shock value in the simple fact of how damn catchy the riffs are. ("What's that you're listening to there?" "Oh, just a song about the Moors murderers. It's bloody great.")
Church of Misery wear their influences on their sleeve - more than one release has involved a modified version of a Sabbath album cover - but then they are incredibly good at it. Fourth track Cranley Gardens is very Sabbath, both in riffs and vocals, and there's some excellent seventies guitar stuff going on in All Hallow's Eve accompanied by unrelenting angry shouting. As with other albums, there's also a cover here to pay tribute to some of Church of Misery's heroes: this time it's a cover of Quatermass's 1971 single, One Blind Mice. Quatermass's prog rock original is given a serious spit and polish here: that already brilliant bass opening has become growlier, rawer, and in the process even more memorable. Alongside One Blind Mice, Düsseldorf Monster is my personal stand-out track of the album, a thirteen-minute closer that revels gloriously in what Church of Misery do best: doom-laden vocals ("Here comes the monster"), some great guitar solos, and a deep, reverberating bass line.
There's nothing unexpected here - Church of Misery fans know exactly what to expect - but Thy Kingdom Scum is a particularly heavy offering that hangs together dangerously coherently. There's a lot here: as well as the obvious Sabbath influence, there are hints of the Melvins and even echoes of Pantera in Hideki Fukusawa's vocal. Buy it, play it loud, try not to hum songs about serial killers on the bus afterwards.