“March of Despair” is Japanese death-doom stalwarts Coffins 57 millionth release. Or at least it feels like it. Hell, there was even a time when I tried to keep up with their releases (because they are/were unquestionably good at what they do). However, I found my interest waning over the years, in part due to that typically Japanese over-exposure in the form of splits with bands that run the gamut of legendary (Asphyx, Cianide…) to the just plain shit. This EP was a welcome chance to re-enter their excellent world of death/doom, and to appraise whether they’re really worth bothering with when their truly superlative compatriots Anatomia are wiping the floor with pretty much any other death/doom band doing the rounds at present.
It starts off as a very promising affair, with “Till Dawn of the Dooms Day” (kudos for broken English!) showcasing their trademark chugging intensity and that impossibly thick and gut-wrenching TONE! The riffs flow like lava and kick skulls where they need to be kicked, blessed with just the right amount of groove to make your head bang. This is also the first instance I’ve heard them with head honcho/axeman Uchino not handling the vocals too, this time allowing drummer Ryo Yamada to do so, and it’s a very refreshing change, although Uchino’s one-dimensional sub-guttural grind of a growl always struck me as suiting the music perfectly. Yamada’s vocals are similarly guttural, although more in the Martin Van Drunen “balls being torn off by an oversized slug” type, and I have to say he’s bloody (no pun intended) great. He continues to impress on “Grotesque Messiah” which sounds like a bunch of gorillas covering early Entombed at half speed. This is a good thing, especially when they slow down to a crawl reminiscent of Cathedral’s first album.
Unfortunately, the next track merits a Cathedral comparison for all the wrong reasons, with an initial riff that frankly sounds like a downtuned version of a sub-par stoner rock riff. Weak as fuck, this reminded me of another reason I stopped paying attention to this band – anyone remember the first track off “Buried Death”, with a pentatonic solo rammed in there for no apparent reason? Totally killed the atmosphere, and sadly the band have done exactly the same thing in this instance, despite the song improving markedly halfway through, but (as with much mid-to-latter day Cathedral), the magic is gone and the track ruined by the ill-fitting nods to frivolous melody, although there’s a merciful lack of flying carpets. I’m the first to applaud a band that tries to expand its sound, but this track just doesn’t work for me, which is a terrible shame as there’s elements of greatness in there.
Thankfully, the band redeem themselves somewhat with “In Bloody Sewage”, back to their grinding best with a track that sounds like Autopsy shorn of the frills and nuances, and played by Neanderthals with an IQ of 70 between them. Savage and to the point, like it should be. The band end with a pretty decent cover of Death’s “Corpsegrinder”, even with a whammy-bar shaking intro to match! Doesn’t quite rate as highly as their cover of Venom’s “Warhead” (best Venom cover ever? It’s certainly possible in my opinion!), or their cover of “Ebony Tears”, but still an excellent effort.
With typically excellent gory artwork, this EP is actually not bad overall, but that woefully misguided track hasn’t quite rekindled my previous love for this band (and don’t get me wrong, their first two albums and some of their splits are 100% GOLD). That said, as with Cathedral, the elements that turned me off will probably appeal to just as many people. Personally, I say more death, less bounce. But overall, it would be unkind to call it bad, as it’s definitely an enjoyable, solid effort – much like my last dump, but more evil.
Scribed by: Saúl Do Caixão