Japanese stoner doom veterans return to their roots with another riff-filled homage to death, murder, and decay.

Release date: June 16, 2023 | Rise Above Records | Facebook | Spotify

Japan’s most supreme stoner doom outfit Church of Misery have had a long history of making a name for themselves on the doom metal scene through countless musical outputs, unveiling their unique hybridisation of Sabbath-infused heavy psychedelia that delves into the macabre histories of some of the world’s most notorious serial killers and mass murderers. Despite a influx of line-up changes, with bassist Tatsu Mikami being the only consistent member of the band, Church of Misery have often been adept when it comes to recruitment, ensuring the best quality is produced for each of their creative offerings. It now feels somewhat more natural for the band to take a step back and acknowledge their earlier strengths in musicianship as yet another recent line-up change in 2022 saw longterm vocalist Hiroyuki Takano leave his post in replacement for original singer Kazuhiro Asaeda, as well as utilising the talents of guitarist Fumiya Hattori and percussionist Toshiaki Umemura, allowing an original sound to flourish. The latest effort by the Japanese quartet, Born Under a Mad Sign, therefore sees Church of Misery employing a classic formula that showcases the best traits to their sound.

Many of the songs follow a similar theme, with audio recordings inducing a kind of dark realism through a collage of news broadcasts, interview snippets, and eerie sound effects emulating the weapons of choice of each serial killer to which these tracks are dedicated. Beginning with “Beltway Sniper (John Allen Muhammad)”, the music dives head first into the daunting world of the aforementioned mass murderer in a retelling this macabre tale accompanied by pummelling riffs at morbid speed with a an ounce of overpowering distortion for good measure. More grim tales soon follow with “Most Evil”, an extensive stoner sludge tune that shadows the shocking story of the Butcher of Hannover, Fritz Haarmann,, followed by a psych-doom odyssey to the scorecard killer Randy Kraft in “Freeway Madness Boogie”, which really utilises the bands harsher and heavier doom metal traits to effect.

There is plenty of Sabbath and Electric Wizard worship going on here through various instrumental breaks and expansive riffs; in the forth track “Murder Castle Blues”, a eerie homage to ‘America’s first serial killer’ H.H Holmes, the slow rhythms encapsulate that dreary and discordant feel of Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi’s riffs with the nastiness of Dopethrone’s sinister guitar tone. Other times you can get a grasp of the band’s blues and psychedelic influences like on “Spoiler”, which reverts to a more stripped-back approach of musicality with tasty ’70s style guitar riffs, whilst the bright organ like accompaniment adds an element of horror to the track’s aesthetic. The last couple of songs continue this psychedelic experience with overdriven guitar licks in “Come and Get Me Sucker (David Koresh)” that obtains a nice edge to its tone. Whilst “Butcher Baker (Robert Hanson)” rounds off the record well with a slow, begrudging doom epic that embodies much of the band’s core musical elements and macabre themes from menacingly harsh atmospheres formed by a walk of noisy, distorted amplification to brutal vocal accompaniment, the track further instills a sense of ominousness through its subtle dynamic shifts.

Whilst Church of Misery are pretty clear on their intentions when it comes to their musical style and lyrical themes, it’s fair to say that the band have certainly conceived a formula that works well for them. Not only do they utilise doom metal’s best asserts within their sound, but, similarly to bands like Macabre, their fascination with the chilling history of serial killers and mass murderers gives the band a unique voice amongst their musical counterparts within this subgenre. Church of Misery are on a war path towards sonic excess, and with some familiar faces returning to the line-up, things seem promising for future projects.

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