There is currently nobody else, to my mind, who does religious apocalypse like The Body.
Truly, we’re talking about a band here who been honing a personal sonic impression of the end times with devastating precision for over a decade now, and who here may have reached the absolute summit of their vision.
It begins with the brief but utterly beautiful ray of light that is “I, Mourner of the Perished Days” – a huge choir swells and flits in the background while a soothing female voice brings a message of calm. And then, after a brief section of ominous electronic rumbling, it’s straight into the beginning of the end with that same choir staying on over the giant, all destroying electronics and the two men of The Body themselves flattening us with those cavernous, beastly drums and a huge riff. It literally sounds like mountains collapsing into the sea while some insane preacher loses his mind in the midst of it all.
Fuck. Two songs in and it’s already the most intense record of the year. Can they keep it up? Pfft.. course they can. The drones, drums and samples of “Melt Away” plunge further into darkness before another pummelling dirge of a non riff and those throat wrecking high pitched shrieks.
At this point, the choral vocals take a back seat and we get a run of guitar, drums and vocals tracks – The Body proper – none of which are in any way less harrowing or bleak. “An Altar Or A Grave” and “Failure To Desire To Communicate” are both absolutely skulldestroying assaults of volume and battery featuring possibly the filthiest guitar sound I’ve heard since..well..since their last record. The sound just these two men alone create is immense. The other stuff is all icing.
“Prayers Unanswered” and “Denial Of The Species” layer electronic manipulation over the band’s focused bludgeonings. But it’s done in a way that enhances the sound, neither distracts from or impinges upon the duo.
Their playing underpins and directs the collaborative elements from long time partners The Assembly Of Light Choir and noise genius Work/Death (both of whose own work, if I may plug it here, I can’t recommend highly enough). In some respects, those guests really make that album what it is – so much so that you feel like maybe they deserve equal billing rather than this just being an album by The Body.
But the point here is that these guests are lending their talents to a plan The Body themselves have drawn up for how this music, a map of how this album should sound. The choral elements are the key in conveying the religious cult element at the core of this album (bear in mind this is a band who’ve used Jim Jones on shirt designs and cult murder sites in videos) – they lift it into an area of revelation; they provide a calming, emotive element as well as an ecstatic element. Whereas the electronics emphasise the crawling, collapsing, soul devouring darkness inherent in the music, and amplify it further.
The inevitable final death of all arrives in the shape of “Bearer Of Bad Tidings”. A hail of (unexpected) blast beats, atonal guitars kicks off the final descent before it’s stripped down to a repetitive rhythm versus noise crawl.
I’m wary making comparisons, but right now, on this record The Body are putting me in mind a great deal of a 21st century answer to “Greed”/”Children Of God” era Swans. They don’t sound like them as such, but in terms of successfully capturing a nadir of hope, and absolute nullification of the spirit, and a sense that some kind of key to the Rapture might be hidden in the words and sounds at work, that’s the kind of company this album is in. Actually, it captures it more clearly than that if anything.
This is absolutely going to be a love or hate record. I can see it being in my top five come year’s end personally, I expect it won’t be as universally hailed by some. But if you actually wanted the Mayans to be right last year, and wondered what it would have sounded like, this is as close as you’re going to get. Staggering stuff.
Scribed by: Jamie Grimes