Monday, 23 September 2019

Coffins - Beyond the Circular Demise (2019)



Country: Japan
Style: Doom/Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 20 Sep 2019
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Regular readers will know I've been a fan of doom/death since its beginnings but I'm as out of date with it as I am with other genres. This year has been a fantastic process of discovery for me. Coffins, who hail from Tokyo, Japan have been around since 1996 but they didn't record a studio album until 2005 and this is only their fifth, coming six years after their last, titled The Fleshland. It's only when we see how many singles they've split with other bands that we realise that they've kept themselves busy.

They aren't like any doom/death I know but they certainly fit in the genre. They play faster than most doom/death bands, for a start, though there are a number of slower moments, but what's really different is their tone. They're fond of playing very dense music and it's emphatically bass heavy, the usual main instruments of voice and guitar almost bent double by wearing the bass around their shoulders like an albatross. It's an interesting sound, which I could describe as slow grindcore.

Forgotten Cemetery may explain it. It's the third track, as we're beginning to get used to this sound, and it kicks off fast and low like an old school death metal song. I moshed to this sort of thing back in the early nineties! But, half a minute in, it completely stops and restarts as an achingly slow plodder of a doom song with a brief guitar solo and dark death growls which are presumably providing lyrics in Japanese. And a minute on again, it ramps up the speed enticingly.

In other words, Coffins are a doom/death band in the sense that they play in a death metal style that sometimes turns into doom. It's done very well too in its lo-fi way, as it sounds just like this was recorded live in one take in a venue that only holds about fifty people but which has an insane sound system that's overkill for the size. I wanted to leap into the pit when they sped up on songs like Forgotten Cemetery and Impuritious Minds.

It's been a while since I've listened to this sort of old school lo-fi death so I'm racking my brain to remember comparisons. I can say that this doesn't play anywhere near the Gothenburg melodic death sound, but it's just as far from what the brutal death Florida sound became. It's more like the earliest death, such as the Scream Bloody Gore album by Death and Seven Churches-era Possessed but slowed down for more than the sections that are aimed to get a pit moving, rather like early Doom. They're certainly the Peaceville act I heard here, because there's nothing from expected names like Paradise Lost, Anathema or My Dying Bride.

Once I got used to what this was (and wasn't), I dug it. It's old school in nature but in a completely different way to the other bands with overtly old school influences. It's interesting to me that a band in 2019 would take the most dominant metal sound of today and rewind it until it's underground and obscure again. I have to have respect for that and the result is energising stuff. It's metal enough for anyone who cares but it's punk enough as well to be something John Peel might have played back in the day.

I nearly went with a 6/10 to reflect that, while this is enjoyable, not everything finds a way to stand out. A few of these songs, especially late on, served mostly to cement the band's sound in my head rather than to add something new. It starts out strong with Terminate by Own Prophecy and it ends very nicely with Gateways to Dystopia but not everything in between is up to the same standard. I plan to listen to this album more to see if it grows on me though.

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