Four years on from the hip-shakingly evil “Houses of the Unholy”, Japan’s leading Black Sabbath and serial killer fanatics Church of Misery have returned with another dose of blues-soaked riffs and grisly tales. There’s been enough maniacs out there to provide vocalist Hideki Fukasawa with a deep well of inspiration and this time round we have the blood-soaked likes of Dennis Rader, Gary Heidnik and Peter Kürten (The Monster of Dusseldorf) to learn about. Kürten’s visage adorns the sepia-tinged album cover and his blank, pitiless eyes are a constant reminder that this is indeed the devil’s music.
Some swirling, trippy effects gradually build in intensity before a monolithically heavy Eyehategod-style riff crashes through the murk of opening track ‘B.T.K (Dennis Rader)’ and Church of Misery lock into their trademark groove. There’s no real progression from their previous release, except that the production feels dirtier and the riffs more degenerate. But when your biggest influence is the band that started this whole Heavy Metal malarkey, why would you change your style?
‘Lambs to the Slaughter (Ian Brady/Myra Hindley)’ has a more pronounced blues feel and rocks like the bastard child of Alabama Thunderpussy and Sourvein while Fukasawa bellows like a wounded bull over the top. New guitarist Ikuma Kawabe has fitted in as snugly as a leather glove in a Dario Argento serial killer flick and his fluid chops and effortless solos lend a timeless quality to the riffs, as demonstrated by the devastatingly abrasive sludge-boogie assault of ‘Brother Bishop (Gary Heidnik)’. It’s all about the goddamn riffs and Kawabe has them in abundance, as finely honed as an assassin’s knife.
As is traditional on all Church of Misery albums, we get an obscure cover, in this case a frantic rendition of ‘One Blind Mice’ by Quatermass which sounds just as menacing and unhinged as anything else on “Thy Kingdom Scum”. The real treat however is the thirteen minute long ‘Dusseldorf Monster (Peter Kürten)’ which encapsulates everything that Church of Misery stands for. The punishing groove, the feral howls, the crashing cymbals and the “Master of Reality”-gone wrong vibes are all present and correct and never once outstay their welcome.
Although there is a harsher sludge element to their sound, Church of Misery could easily be described as Black Sabbath’s living heirs. If Iommi and co were into true-crime paperbacks instead of Hammer Horror and had tuned down a bit more, a record very much like “Thy Kingdom Scum” could have come out in 1971. However, it’s been released in 2013 and as long as there’s murder and metal, it’s easy to envisage this Church continuing for another 40 years.