The Body & Full of Hell
Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light
The bearded bros of Portland’s The Body and Maryland’s masters of brutality Full of Hell, teamed up on last year’s Hole-referencing One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache producing a profoundly experimental mix of sludge metal and electronic fuckery. The album made #7 on my top-ten album list. This time around, the two bands spend more time referencing the ‘90s in their music than they do in the album title. The compositions are less spastic and formless than on One Day and take on the feel of some of the most vital work of old-school industrial artists like Godflesh, Ministry and even Frontline Assembly. “Farewell, Man” mixes the blast beats and growls of FOH’s grindcore stylings with digital edits, keys and a breakdown of somber sludge. “Didn’t the Night End” is reminiscent of the ambient work of Wolf Eyes, it dips into the dub beats Godflesh temporarily fell in love with. It skitters forward like Portishead composed by sacrificial ritual. “Masters Story” and “The King Laid Bare” feel like late-90s’ era Skinny Puppy, or the opening tracks on Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral. What differentiates The Body and Full of Hell’s work from these former genre gods is their bleakness and rawness. While many industrial bands looked for electronic sheen or pop accessibility, this dynamic duo represents nihilism– desperation unbound. If Skinny Puppy were warning of a future hell, The Body and Full of Hell are reporting from the bowels of it.
Wizard Bloody Wizard
These doom freaks from Dorsett rightly won their place in the metal pantheon with their early releases like 1995’s Electric Wizard, 1997’s Come My Fanatics, and 2000’s Dopethrone. Lead singer Jus Osborn had a falling out with bassist Tim Bagshaw and drummer Mark Greening shortly thereafter. Osborn continued on under the Electric Wizard moniker and in many ways has been searching for the magic produced by the original lineup since. That isn’t to say Electric Wizard’s releases have been without merit–it’s just that they haven’t inspired the collective awe as Come My Fanatics and Dopethrone. Both of those albums saw the band smash together sludge metal with traditional doom and stoner elements to produce something that felt truly original, at the time.
As a lyricist, Osborn has always relied on referencing London’s various moments of hysteria over the occult–especially the Highgate Vampire episode from the late sixties. The media at the time obsessed over a group of teen occultists who claimed to either be fighting or communing with supernatural elements in the Highgate Cemetery. Eventually one of these occult experts claimed the graveyard was home to a vampire. Satanism and the occult became a public safety concern as tabloids ran headlines about magician duels and vampire hunts. Like Rob Zombie, Osbourne has mined this pulpish material for decades and like Rob Zombie the tropes have long become old.
While Osborn conveyed dark themes in a scintillating manner on Dopethrone, his modern songwriting has hit like an exercise in naming things that are scary or/and have to do with death. Wizard Bloody Wizard finds the band changing up the formula–but not for something new. They drop any attempt at technical wizardry or nods to sludge metal and adopt a fairly straightforward classic doom metal approach.
Folks looking for a pure Black Sabbathian experience should feel right at home. In fact, album opener “See You in Hell” functions on the kind of basic blues riff that made The Black Keys. “Hear the Sirens Scream” plays out like Sabbath’s “War Pigs” but instead of a lesson on the horrors and injustices of war Osborn delivers a manifesto “We are the night/We hate the light/We have no future/We are the doomed/Drugs our religion/Violence our hymn/Killing for freedom/Then the sirens scream again.” So yes, Electric Wizard have accepted their fate as a caricature of their artform–they are the cliche. Bands like Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have made this work with catchy hooks and propulsive beats but Electric Wizard aren’t exactly wizards of songcraft–they’re riff lords. Thankfully they deliver those riffs on the second half of the six-track album providing their trademark sinister licks like no one else can. Album closer “Mourning of the Magicians” delivers the kind of epic spaced out riffage the band hasn’t captured since “Son of Nothing” on 1997’s Come My Fanatics.
In 2010, Manchester’s industrial-sludge duo released their first album after an 8-year hiatus. Justin Broadrick, the lead singer, guitarist, and programmer had spent the last decade churning through side projects and serving as the inspiration for a new generation of sludge bands. The 2010 reunion album A World Only Lit By Fire was a Godflesh reimagined for that time–fixated on heavy riffs and unrelenting beats. This version of Godflesh was appropriate for the scene it was returning to but not exactly true to what Godflesh had been. Yes, Broadrick served as guitarist for Napalm Death in the mid ‘80s. Yes, Broadrick has a metal pedigree. But Godflesh was as much known for its machine-life riffage as it was its experimentation with electronic atmospherics. Post Self, represents the full breadth of the band’s genius. The record opens with three undeniably catch stompers that stand out as some of the most iconic the band has ever written. “Post Self” grooves as Broadrick yelps in disgust. Broadrick’s guitar goes from rip & tear to hypnotize and sedate revealing George Green’s savvy licks. “Parasite” chugs along like an assembly line with Broadrick barking about his tormentors. The complexity of the drum programming and bass line become apparent again as Broadrick peels back the layers. “No Body” is a showcase for Green as his bass line guides Broadrick through a what a blackened industrial dance number. Broadrick’s orderly riffs give way to dissonance and scattered keys on more introspective tracks like “Mirror of Finite Light” and “The Cyclic End.” The second installment in the band’s reunion represents the band firing on all cylinders, wiser, more focused and better able to express themselves than they were in their youth. Post Self deserves consideration as one of the best albums of the year.