Doom and Sludge metal continues to be a growing corner in the metal scene. Where many bands can use "fuzzy production" as a crutch to sell their music to fans, the sub genre tends to get bogged down as does any sub genre with its core identifier as bands copy formulas. I really enjoy the sub genre, but given the type of music it is I find that poor songwriting is impossible to hide, no matter how thick or heavy the band tries to sound. Here we are, halfway through 2016, where a competitive batch of doom/sludge bands will be competing and compared to one another. Will Cough's Still They Pray hold its own?
Since 2005, Cough has been releasing quality doom/sludge metal. Based in Richmond, Virginia, this four man doom machine has been delivering high quality depressive and agonizing metal (in a positive manner of course). Still They Pray will be their third full-length album coming out on June 3rd, 2016. With an EP and a couple of splits between full-length releases, Cough continues to accumulate catchy stoner riffs and that fuzzy, down-tuned sound that manages to strike the right cords at just the right times.
The production and sound on Still They Pray is a highlight. Where slow moving riffs glide into semi melodic portions, the wearisome sounding movement will place your mind in neutral. "Let it Bleed" is a prime example of this, where the guitar progression and melodic clean vocals are married with doom/sludge effects which bind the song, and allow the groove produced to do its work. This would not be possible without excellent production, which was performed by Jus Oborn (Electric Wizard), and for the recording Oborn was joined by Garret Morris (Windhand).
The agony and misery on this album is thick and heavy. The vocals at points seem to exalt pain and torture to a level that puts most black metal to shame. Harsh vocals, mixed with some clean singing choruses and melodic segments, add a new and intriguing dimension to this intense level of hell who's empty, lonely, dark void penetrates the mind where its teetering fears border reality and the supernatural. The second track, "Possession" is a mile marker on this album as the listener is slowly revealed the anguish being communicated. Each track continues in this similar arduous fashion until the ending track "Still They Pray".
"Still They Pray", the title track, closes out the album with a somber acoustic revelation. In no way is this a climax of misery or pain for the album. Instead, it's a melodic, clean singing song that seems to reflect and observe what was just experienced. A meaningful, and fitting ending.
The mood produced, not only by the writing of the song but the overall sound of the album, generates a clean (as in cover to cover complete consistent sound) but grimy sludge atmosphere. Not to leave out the strong psychedelic approach which seems to have guided Cough's overall drive on Still They Pray. When this psychedelic attribute is threaded in throughout, we get Cough's signature depressive product, but with an empty feeling of cosmic wondering void. Still They Pray, I believe, is Cough's most focused attempt at not just being "depressive sounding" but taking it a step further and identifying exactly what type of "depressive sound" they are identifying with.
Draw the shades, turn out the lights, crank up the music and allow Cough's Still They Pray to reveal a new depth of the underworld.