Released: 2016, Rise Above Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
What’s a fella to do when ¾ of your band quits? If the music is worth it, you soldier on, man…you soldier on.
Such was the predicament of Church of Misery bassist/songwriter/co-founder Tatsu Mikami towards the end of 2014. But as the saying goes – “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (oddly appropriate for a long running doom outfit with an obsession with serial killers), prompting Mikami to call in a doom metal dream team to round out the recording lineup for AND THEN THERE WERE NONE... Featuring Earthride’s Eric Little on drums, Blood Farmers guitarist Dave Szulkin and Scott “Repulsion” Carlson on vocals, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE… is an experiment that could’ve gone entirely off the rails, but ends up being the most satisfying Church of Misery album in a long time.
The core of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE… is consistent with previous releases; Sabbath inspired molasses jams and tales of the macabre. But these seven new tracks are more…accessible? Not that COM has gone all Bieber on us, hardly. But most of the NOLA sludge has been exchanged for cleaner, more melodic riffing that better emphasizes the bluesy base that’s always lived in the band’s seedy underbelly. “River Demon” almost sounds like Cathedral during their hippy disco daze, and “Make Them Die Slowly” has hints of Trouble in its shufflin’ groove. There’s also a definite divide between Carlson’s vocal styling and former frontman Hideki Fukasawa. Whereas the latter’s voice sounded like he usually had a half-eaten sandwich in his mouth, Carlson’s discernable grit and enunciation give the lyrics and vocal performance a more prominent role within the life of each song.
Save for the occasional burst of boogie, most of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE… is content to live in first gear, mid-tempo trips; if you’re not in the right headspace, it can get a bit longwinded. I had to really sit with it through several dedicated listens before I could fully appreciate it, and I don’t know that casual fans are willing to put up that kind of effort anymore. That caveat aside, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE… is a fun album that has given the Church of Misery brand a second chance. Though Mikami’s been non-committal around the future of this new lineup, it’s at least served its purpose in the short term.