"Houses of the Unholy"

(Rise Above)

01. El Padrino (Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo)
02. Shotgun Boogie (James Oliver Huberty)
03. The Gray Man (Albert Fish)
04. Blood Sucking Freak (Richard Trenton Chase)
05. Master Heartache/Born to Raise Hell (Richard Speck)
06. Badlands (Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate)

RATING: 7.5/10

Japan's CHURCH OF MISERY are one of those bands that seems to exist in some alternate universe, showing up here now and then to release another obscure split single full of weird, psychedelic Iommi worship with lyrics about serial killers, before vanishing into the ether again while far less freaked-out doom-mongers get all the press. Their debut full-length, "Master of Brutality", came out in 2001, and "Houses of the Unholy" is only their third such beast, so these guys obviously follow their own schedule, not to mention a twisted, blood-soaked muse that's more than a little disturbing.

Their overdriven sound cranks the needles into the red, and their vocals are gruffly melodic, but for all that, CHURCH OF MISERY may be the closest thing on earth to the natural evolution of early 1970's BLACK SABBATH -- certainly more pure and true to that sound than any original member has attempted since those halcyon days. The riffs are pure Iommi hand-of-doom murk, the transitions a well-worn tribute, the acid blues never too far from these nutters' minds. If you think I'm kidding, get about 3:40 into "Blood Sucking Freak" and get snowblinded, in a very awesome, utterly heavy-handed and obvious sort of way — these guys may actually think they are 1973-vintage BLACK SABBATH at moments such as these, and are you gonna tell them they're not?

Don't let the short track listing fool you — these guys stretch their jams in the most languid, gluey ways, four of these six cuts wandering over the seven-minute mark. "Shotgun Boogie" is the most pepped-up rocker of the bunch, most of the rest delivering that SAB gloom with a sick, doomy bass tone, smokin' solos, the obligatory documentary samples, and above all, a canyon-cratering groove that's chest-cavingly heavy and humungously satisfying for all its archetypal lude-blooze proto-metal familiarity.

The rest of the world may recoil at their penchant for picking through the carrion of serial killers' legacies, and only the insular stoner/doom scene may embrace their vibe, but CHURCH OF MISERY know what they're doing, and they do it damn well, when they choose to bestow it upon us. They deserve a higher profile, partly because the world needs more gut-throbbing riff-centric doom done right, and partly because it's been a while since rock and roll legitimately scared the bejabbers out of the squares.


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