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When one looks out across the heavy metal landscape and examines the commons threads, it's clear that the "Doom" variety of our beloved genre is having a definite moment in the sunlight (er…moonlight?). This trend itself comes in a variety of forms, but at least to my ears there are two forces at play here. One self-consciously lurches back into the sound and aesthetic of Black Sabbath and the 1970's more generally. The other which takes the style and incorporates elements of death and black metal into the mix. This is nothing new of course, bands like My Dying Bride and others have done this for decades.

But over the past few years, as genre's have continued to cross-pollinate, a grittier sound has emerged: brutal, sometimes even plodding in its aggression, and overwhelmingly heavy. As with all varieties of heavy music, this class has its students who do a great job keeping listeners engaged, and others that simply go on…and on…and on until you reach the 11th minute and simply cannot bear to sit through a 12th. Luckily enough, Coffinworm's new album sits comfortably with the rest of the A-students.

The album rips into furious action with the opening track, "Sympathectomy", one of many beautifully-titled songs from the band's catalog. Dissonant, yet gloriously clear in intent, the song is simply soaked in rage like lava spewing from the mouth of Vesuvius. Slow, long song structures tend to bring a lot of bands down into monotonous rage.

But on IV.I.VIII, Coffinworm uses this to their advantage, letting their rage breathe and stretch into every facet of the listener's imagination. When you listen to "Black Tears" you can tell immediately, this is the kind of metal that grabs you and immediately infects your blood stream with every distorted scream, every punishing snare hit and every ominous guitar riff.

But that's not to say the band's sound is confined to only a couple of slow, doomy tempos (or sludgy, if you REALLY want to start splitting hairs). The albums ferocious closing track, "A Death Sentence Called Life" (what a name!) goes through several tempo changes before it's done with you. In fact, Coffinworm picks the energy level up so much that the latter half of the song almost sounds reminiscent of Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror or even Infest. And yet the beginning has a very black metal feel to it.

As I've noted before, Coffinworm is the type of band who by virtue of their musical attitude alone, makes me glad they exist. In its six brutal, misanthropic screeds, Coffinworm captures a truly menacing sound. I guess the only drawback of the album is that the band has honed their musical mood so well that you almost have to be in the right mood to sit through the entire record. Maybe a few, shorter and more easily digestible tracks would have been nice. But this is a quibble about tactics, not strategy, something the band has a very firm grasp on.

Few bands can make such deadly music sound so alive.


Favorite Songs: "Sympathectomy", "Black Tears" and "A Death Sentence Called Life"

When he's not infuriating people with his album reviews, Drew Zalucky is busy writing for his political website, For the Sake of Argument

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