Released: 2009, Rise Above Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Can somebody please explain to me why I’m just learning about Church of Misery? I mean, c’mon – Japanese stoner metal about serial killers? Where have you been hiding all of my life? It’s like Macabre slowed down to 33 1/3 speed! Church of Misery is a Japanese four piece that’s been slumbering around the underground since 1995 and has built their lineage on the morose subject of serial murder. HOUSES OF THE UNHOLY is the band’s fourth studio full length, but they’ve got about a dozen or so split EPs and such to their credit. The album is also the first to be released through Doom Metal magnate Lee Dorrian’s Rise Above Records, ensuring greater promotional and distribution opportunities for the album.
Church of Misery opts for a more groove oriented, rhythmic focused style of doom that’s closer to bands like Kyuss or Cathedral than the usual Sabbath clones, which is refreshing to hear. The band has also apparently vowed never to actually record a Sabbath cover, which again, is refreshing to hear. The songs are draped in a wall of Tom Sutton’s 70’s-style guitar fuzz and are accompanied by jazzy, swinging rhythms courtesy of bass player/founding member Tatsu Mikami and drummer Junji Narita. Hideki Fukasawa’s vocals lie somewhere between Phil Anselmo and Neil Fallon territory, coming across as abrasively corrosive while still having some having lots of bluesy character. While Church of Misery has enough bar band chops to lock into a hook and rock it out for all its worth, it’s the subject matter that the band covers that makes them who they are.
Serial killers are the order of the day here. Each song is subtitled with the name of the killer that the song is about and the tunes themselves offer a news clip styled snippet about the crimes committed, so if you’re not up to speed with your serial killer lore you won’t be missing anything. Lyrically, the songs adopt the first person perspective of each killer but it doesn’t get obnoxious or grotesque; it’s more about getting into the mindset and rationale that prompted their actions.
If serial killers aren’t your thing, you can still find plenty to dig about HOUSES OF THE UNHOLY. The songs are well put together and have enough smoked out swagger to merit some fun in their own right (“Shotgun Boogie” is downright jig worthy). And honestly, between Fukasawa’s drawling English enunciation and the raw production values, you won’t have any idea what he’s moaning about anyway. HOUSES OF THE UNHOLY is 48 minutes of jam filled indulgence that should do plenty to please fans of genre and might just win over some new parishioners to this Church in the process.