Church Of Misery – Master of Brutality (2001) & The Second Coming (2004)

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Review by Jason Guest

Brimming with songs about serial killers and Black Sabbath-inspired and doom-laden riffs, Japan’s Church of Misery have been dealing in chunky slabs of stoner/doom metal laced with psychedelic, trippy sounds and atmospheres since 1995. After a couple of splits and EPs, the band’s first full length, Vol.1, was abandoned when they decided to focus their attention almost exclusively on psychopaths (the album was bootlegged but eventually received an official release in 2007). Their “official” debut Master of Brutality (2001) and their sophomore album, The Second Coming (2004) are to be rereleased on 28th February 2012 through Metal Blade/Rise Above Records with a few extra tracks taken from EPs and performances around the time of the original releases.

Master of Brutality (2001)

Master of Brutality (no prizes for guessing the inspiration behind the album title), was released in 2001 and is low, slow, menacing and miserable. The songs, though distinctly Sabbath-esque, have a bluesy sound to them. ‘Killifornia’, ‘Ripping Into Pieces’ and ‘Megalomania’ (not a cover of the Sabbath song) are ominous and looming, the latter a more uptempo and driving track that stands out as the best track here. Disrupting the evil stream mid-album is the instrumental ‘Green River’, a mysterious down-tempo psychedelic dirge, the guitars swamped in weird and wonderful effects. Their cover of the Blue Oyster track ‘Cities on Flame’ gets the Church of Misery treatment, stays faithful to the original and sits wells amid the murky mix. The title track, at over eleven minutes long, is huge in every respect. The bass farts like an elephant after a colossal binge on rotten fruit and veg, the track lumbering along with the same hulking pace. The three additional tracks all bear the same weight and are imbued with as much doom as Church of Misery could summon from the hellish depths.

7.5 out of 10

Track Listing:

1. Killifornia (Ed Kemper)
2. Ripping Into Pieces (Peter Sutcliffe)
3. Megalomania (Herbert Mullin)
4. Green River
5. Cities On Flame (Blue Oyster Cult Cover)
6. Master Of Brutality (John Wayne Gacy)
7. Boston Strangler (Albert de Salvo)
8. Candy Man (Dean Corll)
9. Lucifer Rising (Live)

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The Second Coming (2004)

Church of Misery’s “second” album The Second Coming is as ferocious a stoner album as you can get. Opening with the ludicrously heavy ‘I, Motherfucker’ and ‘Soul Discharge’, feedback swamps the huge distorted chords and gargantuan drums, the riffs as nefarious as both titles suggest. ‘Red Ripper Blues’ is a doom-laden blues track, a dirty, grinding rhythm section embellished by Hoshi’s psychedelic guitar noises and blues lead work before chugging and chunky uptempo riffs blast out for the two minute coda. ‘Filth Bitch Boogie’ is laced with bluesy hard rock riffs aplenty, and the Cactus track ‘One Way Or Another’ (as does the May Blitz cover, ‘For Mad Men Only’) gets the full Church of Misery treatment with an extended, dirty jam. The main difference with ‘Candy Man’ is the production, the version onMaster of Brutality is muddier whereas here, it’s got clarity but is no less punchy. And closer ‘El Topo’ is torturously slow doom, the song dragging the depths for all it can garner. The Second Coming is as atmospheric as its predecessor, every bit as heavy – if not more so – and as raw, rough, and impressively powerful.

7.5 out of 10

Track Listing:
1. I, Motherfucker (Ted Bundy)
2. Soul Discharge (Mark Essex)
3. Red Ripper Blues (Andrei Chikatilo)
4. Filth Bitch Boogie (Aileen Wuornos)
5. One Way Or Another (Cactus Cover)
6. Candy Man (Dean Corll)
7. El Topo
8. For Mad Men Only (May Blitz Cover)

A decade on and Master of Brutality still stands up as a great album, and The Second Coming is a worthy successor, the band’s development and mastery of their chosen style coming to the fore and marking them out as a band that deserves more attention than they perhaps receive. The musicianship is top notch and the songs are absurdly heavy and infectiously groovy. Both Nishimura’s and Toshi’s guitars and Mikami’s bass shred the speakers with their absurdly razor-sharp levels of distortion; Narita’s drums are Bill Ward meets John Bonham in their grand, oversized beats and bruising fills; and Negishi’s vocals are raw and raspy, tearing into the lyrics like the serial killers he sings about tear into their victim’s flesh. Now that the original Sabbath line-up is back together and a new album is on the way, it’ll be interesting to see how they compare to the hordes of heavy metal devotees they have inspired, Church of Misery in particular.

Visit Church of Misery’s website here