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Classic revisited

Cough : Still They Pray

Cough have written an album that ought to keep the die-hards happy enough, whilst at the same time embracing a certain amount of change.

I should probably start by saying that 'Ritual Abuse', (Cough's second full length album), is one of my favorite Doom records. It's one of those records that doesn't fuck about. For me, it's right up there with 'Sub Templum' by Moss as an example of pure and unadulterated 'Doom Fucking Metal'. There are plenty of albums that hit the Doom nail squarely on the head, and we've all got our favorites for any number of good reasons, but like I said, 'Ritual Abuse' is one of mine. Please excuse the language, but it feels somewhat appropriate.

While we're briefly looking backwards into the past, let's not forget that 'Sigilum Luciferi', Cough's 2008 debut, isn't exactly a bad album either, but for some reason it was their sophomore outing that really grabbed me. 2013 saw an excellent split release with Windhand, (Parker Chandler plays in both bands) which boasted an eighteen minute dirge that perfectly showcased the dual elements at the forefront of Cough's music. Namely the mind spinningly trippy, and the downright horrific.

'Still They Pray' is not a whole lot different in this respect. Doomy, trippy and horrifying in reasonably equal measures, but it's not exactly the same musical beast that scored 'Ritual Abuse' either. With this in mind, I remember when 'The Wounded Hours' track was released back in April, I was wondering if Cough may have been heading off in a slightly different direction, and in a number of places on the album they have done. As much as 'Still They Pray' attempted to suggest it was business as usual, it didn't take long to realise that it might not be. At least not all of the time.

To start with, the raw, sludgy guitar tones and production values that gave 'Ritual Abuse' its defining quality have had their edges smoothed out slightly. In fact, if I was being harsh, I'd say that opener, 'Haunter of the Dark', could almost be a Windhand song. Almost. Six years on from their last full length you might have expected something to change, and it has. But for a good two thirds of the album, it hasn't done so by all that much. There's more of a Stoner vibe for sure, but if you look back over their career, at tracks like 'Crooked Spine' and 'Athame', you could most likely have seen it coming, and in any case, with Jus Oborn producing, what else might we have expected? Midway through the record though, 'Masters of Torture' restores the evil order, which is pretty much how the album rides along. Each time you begin to get comfortable, sinking back into the sofa, letting some of the smooth waves of Stoner riffage and laid-back soloing encourage funky, psychedelic daydreams, Cough abruptly go and get all medieval on us, and serve up some seriously heavy shit.

This dual trickery works both ways though, because following that particular offering is 'Let It Bleed' which begins by sounding about as close to a ballad as Cough are going to get, before turning on it's schitzophrenic head and descending feet-first back into the darkness once more. However, it's arguably the last three tracks that ice the superbly foul cake that is 'Still They Pray', and help to reaffirm Cough as anything but a one trick pony. There are moments of experimentalism on 'Shadow of the Torturer', while 'The Wounded Hours' sounds like the silky soundtrack to a lavish occult ritual. The title track, in all it's stripped-back acoustic glory, busks the album to a bleak and nihilistic conclusion.

It's been a real pleasure to revisit this for review. Cough have written an album that ought to keep the die-hards happy enough, whilst at the same time embracing a certain amount of seemingly trepidatious change. Thankfully, any initial fears I had back in April about Parker Chandler's two bands starting to blend into a composite Stoner mess have been well and truly put to bed. Six years after 'Ritual Abuse' then, no longer the same, but not exactly different either, third album proper finds Cough still very much within the realms of 'Doom Fucking Metal'. Please excuse the language, but it still feels somewhat appropriate.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Haunter of the Dark
2. Possession
3. Dead Among The Roses
4. Masters Of Torture
5. Let It Bleed
6. Shadow Of The Torturer
7. The Wounding Hours
8. Still They Pray

Duration : Approx. 68 minutes

Visit the Cough bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-10-18 by Matt Halsey
Rotten Copper
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