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Chrch : Unanswered Hymns

Bridging atmospheric Psychedelic Doom and murderous Extreme Doom: US band Church's debut.

The United States has always been a forerunner of the traditional, sludgy, and stoned realms of Doom Metal. As bands like Saint Vitus, Sleep, and Eyehategod have grown and flourished from this land, more modern US bands have closely followed in their footsteps. Bands like Pallbearer and YOB, for instance, have continued the traditions of hazy, blazed Doom. However, their personal takes on the style are significantly larger in sound. As these more modern groups choose to drone out their music with blaring leads and humongous rhythm sections, the style has only become louder, heavier, and even less hopeful sounding. This is where Church comes in.

A fresh new band out of California, Church seemed to have popped up out of nowhere with this mysterious first output, 'Unanswered Hymns'. Three sprawling tracks of humongous and bleak Doom pummel along with riffs that move like a cement truck and vocals that range from depressed, murmured cleans, to horrifying deathly shrieks. Generally, their style meets somewhere between the dreamier, more psychedelic end of the spectrum, and the uglier, more extreme side that borders on Drone and Funeral Doom at times.

'Dawning' makes a fairly accessible entrance into the three compositions, kicking off with a devilish mid-tempo riff and leading into some eerie cleans from lead vocalist Eva. Before long, the music picks up with some grunts and a more up-tempo churn that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Pelican's earliest offerings. A drawn out interlude of clean guitars eventually follows, reeking of a foreboding atmosphere that isn't at all lightened by the sparse drifting leads or the ghostly sung vocals. This explodes into an incredibly depressed, funeral-paced mire that drones on before escalating into an upbeat climax, which is fueled by a glorious lead solo.

'Stargazer' is perhaps my favorite track out of the three. A sinister clean intro builds up with pulsating drums, creating a very cold and somewhat urban sounding vibe. The riff that follows will rip into the listener's being, perpetuating a dire trudge of Funeral Sludge with some very desperate and utterly frightening screams. A monotonous lead hovers over the titanic muck, before suddenly turning to a much lighter and more emotional direction. A melodic and slightly more hopeful riff bleeds out with winding leads and weeping cleans, consistently pursuing this climactic and majestic sprawl for the rest of the track.

As the composition of 'Stargazer' was the transition from dark to light, final track 'Offering' is the descent from light to dark. Kicking off immediately with reverbed cleans and an up-tempo riff, the first half of the song sounds like something that made its way out of Windhand's 'Soma' album. The pummeling kick of the riffs and monumental atmosphere make the song appear as some kind of Doom anthem at first, but about four minutes in, the tempo and majestic feel drop out. We are left with a Moss-styled puddle of Drone that is made no less unsettling by the presence of Eva's bloodcurdling screams and some very monstrous sounding growls from guitarist, Chris. The drums pick back up, pursuing a monotonous, sludgy Death/Doomy kick that adds a dialogue between the three vocal styles; the harrowing screams, the subterranean grunts, and the miserable cleans. A wash of feedback blurs over the noisy funeral drags and final dying screams before coming to a close, drifting away to some eerie sounds of wind.

What I think makes me appreciate this album so much is that, as I said, it sort of builds a bridge between the friendlier and atmospheric sounds of Psychedelic Doom and the most horrifying, murderous field of Extreme Doom imaginable. Those who are familiar with Stephen O'Malley's earliest work will perhaps pick up on some vibes that don't sound far from the likes of Thorr's Hammer and Burning Witch, among a vast majority of similar bands that have all weaved their influences into Church's well-nuanced sound. This isn't so much to say that the band sounds too much like the bands that inspired them, but rather they use the inspiration from those bands to create a blend that they can rightfully claim as their own. I find that those who are firmly interested in the sludgier realms of Doom Metal will really enjoy and value 'Unanswered Hymns' as I did.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Dawning
2. Stargazer
3. Offering

Duration : Approx. 45 minutes

Visit the Chrch bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-07-22 by Dante DuVall
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