Released: 2016, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
It’s been almost six years since Cough released their sophomore epic RITUAL ABUSE. Despite a pair of splits with Windhand and The Wounded Kings, the Richmond, VA based doom troupe have been radio silent for the last half decade. RITUAL ABUSE was the kind of album that legends are born from, and the prospect of not hearing the next evolution of the band was becoming a tough, but very real pill to swallow. And then from out of nowhere comes the announcement and imminent release of STILL THEY PRAY – who says that dreams don’t come true?
A natural progression from the bleak, acerbic squalor of RITUAL ABUSE, STILL THEY PRAY is a more mature and organic sounding record. It’s as uncomfortably tortured as any of Cough’s past material, but the riffs are more distinct (versus being awash in the noise) and the vocals cleaner, allowing the songs to really drive their point home. The bluesy wah in “Haunter of the Dark” is enough to make Dave Chandler proud, but its’ pairing against the droning rhythm is legit scary. “Dead Among the Roses” crawls like a zombie pulling itself from his sarcophagus, whilst bright fleeting melodies dance amongst the tombstones. The masterful “Let it Bleed” is possibly the single best track ever from the band. An almost folksy effort that features a sing-a-long verse and searingly sweet guitar lines, it’s basically a drone metal ballad. Just when you think it can’t get any better than that, you’re treated to the Hammond wails of “The Wounding Hours” and the dismal acoustic strummed coda of the title track. It’s a powerful 67 minutes.
Cough have outdone themselves again. STILL THEY PRAY doesn’t beat you over the head at the starting line as on past albums, it’ll take a few spins to settle in. But once you accustom yourself to the vibe and refined delivery, it’s a whole new level of sonic depression to experience. Easily the best doom metal album of the year so far and assuredly earning a spot in my own personal top 10, STILL THE PRAY is everything you didn’t know you needed from a doom metal record.