When I had the pleasure of interviewing vocalist Hideki Fukasawa and drummer Junji Narita of Japanese doom heavyweights Church of Misery at last year’s Maryland Deathfest, we barely managed to bridge the language barrier. But music is a universal language, and heavy metal’s the best example of this – just look at how many Iron Maiden fans all across the world know the words to “Fear of the Dark,” no matter what their native language may be. So even with them speaking in broken English and us speaking in broken Japanese, we could still get our points across and share the enthusiasm for the music that brings us all together.
When Hideki did speak to us in English, a phrase that he kept returning to was “Don’t think! FEEL!” Every true doom murderhead that calls themselves a Church of Misery fan should know what to expect from their music based on that phrase alone – nothing technical or too “progressive,” no frills, no bells and whistles; just good old-fashioned bluesy riffs with lyrics about serial killers delivered in a demonic howl. And if you’re looking for more of the same, their new offering Thy Kingdom Scum delivers on all counts.
From the first thudding tom beats and smoky serpentine licks of “B.T.K.,” you’ll know you’re in for another monstrous ride through the minds of the mad. The sludgy and misanthropic (yet still irresistibly groovy!) riffs of bass god Tatsu Mikami and new guitarist Ikuma Kawabe will keep your head nodding throughout the album’s entire runtime, while Narita’s drumwork keeps a steady lurching pace that never lets up. Fukasawa’s vocals are as raw and demonic as ever, providing the perfect counterpoint of viciousness to the thunderous pentatonic boogie that the rest of the band conjures up. The production sounds beefier and cleaner than ever before, but it still keeps just the right amount of necrotic fuzz to give it that hostile edge. So, all things considered, this is everything you’ve come to expect from a Church of Misery album. And that’s good praise indeed.
But aside from a few mellower moments at the beginning of “B.T.K.” and peppered throughout “Cranley Gardens,” the band haven’t changed their formula that much at all (aside from a Quatermass cover, which earns them major WTF points). They seem to have ascended to the level of bands like Bolt Thrower or Amon Amarth, where they can release near-identical material throughout the years and somehow never grow stagnant. Sure, they could change their sound, but why fix what ain’t broke? They sound plenty good already. Nevertheless, fans of 70s-inspired stoner doom will have major cases of deja vu throughout, particularly in the beginning of “Dusseldorf Monster.” Listen to the beginning of that track and just try to tell me it’s not a straight ripoff of Sabbath’s “Wicked World.”
But aside from a few missteps in that regard, these cuts can easily share a set with Church of Misery’s flawless earlier material. It’s not as monstrous as latter-day doom classics like Master of Brutality and The Second Coming, but it’s an excellent offering from a group that demands to be experienced. Thy Kingdom Scum is not just a good entry point for the neophyte of the riff, but it’s also sure to satisfy the appetite of any jaded doom warrior who’s starved for the next banquet of bluesy fuzz. Turn it on, tune in, and get ready to drop out one more time.