Coffinworm are a bit like their namesake critter; they’ll keep digging and chewing into your brain. The initial impression of “IV.I.VIII” (the band’s second full-length) is contemporary death-doom, a bit “cavern”, rinse and—no, don’t rinse: leave it filthy. The logo font and impenetrably black aesthetic suggest overseas origin—Finland and Japan occurred to me before I learned that they’re straight outta Indianapolis, Indiana.
“IV.I.VIII” does not grab you by the throat as soon as you open. This is an album that grows into itself, getting stronger over the course of its runtime. The song titles combine threat and wit in a way that both imparts a sense of the sound in words and gives the album a sense of macabre playfulness that increases its personality score: ‘Sympathectomy’, ‘Instant Death Syndrome’, ‘Of Eating Disorders and Restraining Orders’, and the lovely ‘A Death Sentence Called Life.’ Mostly mid-tempo, these are odes to horrors unknown (to me anyway; I review sans lyric sheet in this case), sculpted from distortion seemingly applied to most channels of the mix, and occasionally propelled by a ghostly emergence of clattering non-drumset percussion.
Once the metallic artifact that is “IV.I.VIII” is finished, an interesting thing happens. What appears in the guise of a slab of dirty neo-primitive death metal is revealed to be composed of several things more. The howling vocals add a sludge vibe not unlike Indian, and that distorted mix hearkens toward industrial. (This is a 90s hangover that a handful of younger bands have used lately to good effect.) You might hear some of Autopsy’s pacing and the haze of acts like Atriarch in there as well.
Coffinworm have a good thing going. With continued growth they could be at the top of their own death-doom-sludge-whatever-they-feel-like heap in another album or two. If you’re fishing for something harrowing and heavy, bait your hook with some Coffinworm.