Album review: CHURCH OF MISERY – Thy Kingdom Scum

Rise Above – Out Now.

Church Of Misery is a Japanese Doom/Stoner Metal quartet that I barely knew up until a couple of years ago. It was a highly energetic and fairly inspirational show at the London Underworld that first brought the band to my attention and I was so taken aback by their early Sabbath-meets-Hawkwind style that I promised that next time they were to release a studio album that I would do my best to review it.

Well, Tokyo’s finest have just released their fifth studio album entitled “Thy Kingdom Scum” and, true to my word, I’m going to let you know what I think of this seven track release.

On the album, these stoned Samurai warriors come across exactly as I remember them live: noisy, dirty and full of high octane energy! Sure, what you have here, in principle, is the kind of Sabbath worship exercised by hundreds of like-minded bands, however, there are a few things which help make this quartet stand out from the crowd, starting with Hideki Fukasawa’s unique vocals.

Imagine Roger Miret (Agnostic Front) trying to emulate Phil Anselmo’s singing style in Down and you are half way to understanding how unusual, yet dead interesting this guy’s vocals really are. Add to that tons of heavily distorted, Iommi-approved guitar riffs and a splash of Hawkwind-influenced spacey keyboard notes for effect, and what you have is one of the most enjoyable Doom/Stoner albums released so far this year.

Opening the album with “B.T.K. (Dennis Rader)” was a very good idea, as this six and a half minute atmospheric track is the perfect way to showcase the band’s ability to combine early 70s Sabbath-style riffs with the spacey keyboard tunes.

“Lambs To The Slaughter (Ian Brady/Myra Hindley) would have been just another tribute to Sabbath, had it not been for Fukasawa’s tormented vocal performance which adds much colour and flavour, while head banging aficionados will surely appreciate the groove and tenacity of “Brother Bishop (Gary Heidnik)”.

In “Cranley Gardens (Dennis Andrew Nilsen)” you have a truly inspirational piece of music, filled with groovy, heavily distorted/fuzzy riffs and unorthodox vocal renderings, all beautifully supported by Tatsu Mikami’s low-frequency bass tunes.

A fitting cover of Quatermass’ 1970s opus “One Blind Mice” provides a break from the serial-killer focused lyrical concept of the album, while “All Hallow’s Eve (John Linley Frazier)” is an easy to process composition which does, however, incorporate many subtle and clever rhythmical changes. The album concludes in impressive fashion, with the thirteen-minute “Dusseldorf Monster (Peter Kurten)” finding the band in a truly inspiring and experimental (atmosphere-wise) mood.

Doom/Stoner Metal is a style that I am naturally drawn to, yet I have often come across bands which claim to serve this genre, but whose music I find leave much to be desired in terms of both focus and inspiration.

Well, I am happy to report that Church Of Misery belong in the category of bands whose love towards all things Doom and psychedelic are a means of inspiration, and not a means to an end – something that really comes across in “Thy Kingdom Scum”; an album that I would gladly recommend to anyone who loves the 70s.

John Stefanis

Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)

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