The Body Christs, Redeemers

[Thrill Jockey; 2013]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: shovel on soil, fugitive chorus, reel-to-reel
Others: Teeth of Lions Rule The Divine, Khanate, Charger

The Body create an atmospheric fusion within their sound that brings into question the categories often associated with their signature modes of practice. Through implementing the most imposing bass tones, choral interjections, and meticulously arranged feedback, they are able to channel a number of moods that bring emotive and behavioral responses to the foreground more than any traditional, stylistic signifier. But that comes with a price. Each offering sits on the fringe of so many genres that the band’s sole members, Lee Buford and Chip King, are perceived as outsiders no matter where they turn — there is no “inner circle” for them to walk in. However, the fact that they recognize an apparent lack of guidelines is part of what makes this Providence-based duo so impressive. It grants them a disquieting preponderance, which they manipulate to deposit aggression, fear, reverence, and even absurdity into the palms of their audience. On their lead EP Master, We Perish, they opted for a full submergence into the heaviest aspects of their strategy, but with Christs, Redeemers, they ignite a range of complex reactions designed to inspire and to petrify, the consequences of which reveal a wholly unsettling listen.

By excavating new approaches to various forms of metal, The Body have stumbled into a domain where the listener’s environment takes on an incredibly important role. Although the bulk of their work is founded on sludge/doom aesthetics, they establish a space that allows for noise, drone, musique concrète, and even ambient soundscapes to pour into the mix, making it difficult to find the right headspace for playback. Streaming this beast online is likely to be a disappointing experience, not because the music isn’t grand enough to support such a medium, but because the band has specifically sought out a sound that requires physical engagement. This is, of course, a very bold move in an age where portability trumps selecting the right time and space to listen, but the fact remains: Christs, Redeemers is at its most hard-hitting after sundown. On a night walk, it’s terrifying.

All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood inspired a discussion concerning the juxtaposition between dark and light, which are often translated as beauty and ugliness, Heaven and Hell. That doesn’t seem to be the case on Christs, Redeemers, which has more to do with mood than it does with method: contributions from The Assembly of Light Choir are pristine and angelic, but they are pitted against intensified surface crackle, jutting violins, and brilliantly arranged percussion — they ground the disturbing sections in some enchanting splendor, a false sense of array; the all-female vocal contributions construct a platform for the terror to leap out from. Aesthetically, the dark and light, so called, might uncover these contrasting qualities, but in terms of temper and effect, they are both one in the same: each composition lends itself to an utterly twisted affair, which is further mangled by King’s freakish bellow.

In accordance with their deformation of category, the lead vocals go against the grain of instrumentation. Where mind-heavy bass chugs, intoxicating fuzz portals, and overpowering feedback suggest that a sunken growl should follow, King’s demented shriek comes wholly unexpected and with an outcome that exposes the man’s calculated lunacy. It’s an exhilarating component grounded in an expertly crafted metal framework, which complements the record’s flawless pace as it sizzles between choral harmonies (“I, the Mourner of Perished Days”), interweaving violins (“An Altar Or A Grave”), and perfectly timed breakdowns (“Prayers Unanswered”). The aftermath is frightening in its tenacity, which is amplified by a putrid shrill that has the impact of a cold, blunt object swung with force.

Delving into the compositional variation of the album is a lot more fruitful than appropriating the contrast between good and evil. The Body make full use of their diverse set of collaborators, which permits them to carve different shades into their sound, particularly on the latter half. “Shrouded” opens with an unrelenting hiss, which turns out to cloak heavily manipulated vocals buried halfway behind a wall of static and a rippling kick drum — it’s a tremendous introduction that continues to apply pressure and build tension. The former track varies substantially to the first single “To Attempt Openness,” which maintains a similar feel but employs the choir to bridge drum sections in between all the shouting once the tirade begins. In terms of structure, this is probably the most characteristic metal jam on the whole record, with its churning riffs and persistent abuse of repetition. As a basis for comparison, “Denial of the Species” opens with a structured frame but buries King’s screech within fractured tape loops and deeply resounding cello strings — it reinforces both the role of the choir and of Scott Reber (a.k.a Work/Death), whose expert tinkering and distinct knack for penetrating resonance can be felt all over.

The most remarkable guest contribution comes from Chrissy Wolpert, who provides the lead on “I, The Mourner of Perished Days” alongside Reba Mitchell. Wolpert also takes center stage on the harrowing “Night of Blood in a World Without End,” which grants the listener some time to breathe and reflect on all they have just been through; it acts as counterweight in pace while exposing a level of control in an otherwise apparent madness. But this isn’t an aimless act of brutality — there is a voice of reason here, which paints an equally grim picture, even in its encouragement. “Fear not for you are with me/ Unyielding light/ Turn suffering to ash,” sings Wolpert behind a blanket of hiss that whips back and forth before disintegrating into a choral furnace. She later persists: “We walk in silence/ You to glory/I to shame/ The pain of living holds no victory,” emphasizing a severance between the lighter side of the sound and the listener, leaving the latter at the mercy of the deranged. Aesthetically, her solo guest spots play into the choir and the string instruments, the cello and violins adding a layer of refinement to the distortion that carries them. It’s not so much a breather from King’s unhinged onslaught as an additional level of menace that seeps deep into the listening experience and further complicates the atmosphere.

In spite of the dank, cold space that The Body hurl toward their audience, there exists something fully disarming about their work. Their determination to stay on the fringes of any scene, to share stages with artists who bear little in common, and to fully explore the depths of the feeling they devise — it’s all brought out in their genre-defying artistry. “Bearer of Bad Tidings” hammers this point home as the final number on Christs, Redeemers. It’s the ultimate sendoff, and with its shuddering pulse and glitch-tinted synthesis, it is, like everything else on here, a huge gamble that pays off. Not only is this album a journey into the darkest caverns of the most sordid mind, but it also harbors the potential to hold you there, dangling all on your own accord.

Links: The Body - Thrill Jockey

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