Thursday, May 16, 2013

Churchburn - Churchburn (EP) (2013)

We've gone over this time and time again. How much can we really derive from a name or album artwork? Can you tell me the entirety of the story contained, just by what is on the cover? In some cases, the answer might actually be yes (see: power metal, viking metal, folk metal). But much more often, you can only infer the most menial, worthless details about a band simply by looking at the letters, logos and photos that make up their presentation. From the smallest US state, Rhode Island, comes a band that produce a sound much larger than the 1,000 square miles their home state represents. Churchburn make their first impression with their name, and the imagery it calls up. They make their second impression with the album cover of the latest self titled EP, graced with a crucified figure in black and white. And neither one, not the name or the photo, truly represent the sound that this band possess. Taking pieces of the most powerful genres in modern metal - death, black, and doom - this four piece are more than meets the eye, and more than their name could ever represent.

That immediate sense of dread you feel during the early stages of "Come Forth The Swarm" is no accident, nor is the multidimensional showcase that follows. Jammed into the seemingly short nine minute outline are some of the most crushing riffs and blood curdling screams ever put into digital formats. All of the heaviness of death metal meets the emotional foreboding of doom in each verse and chorus, though it would be crass to even call them that. Instead, it is important to ntoe that the segment surrounding the five minute mark will widen your view of the song, the album, and the band. The sweeping guitar melody is crisp, clean, and magnificent, and sets things up perfectly for a return to black. In contrast, "Crown Of Fallen Kings" is more straightforward in delivery, though no less punishing. The traditional doom sound fits the band well, as guitarist and vocalist Dave Suzuki cuts to your inner ear with his combination of ominous riffs and grating screams. It may seem more stripped down, but it remains as impactful and grave as the previous offering. It is down to "Kneel Upon Charred Remnants" to give the album it's more brutal twist. As if the title alone doesn't solidify that, the down tempo chugging surely will. Suzuki achieves haunting status with his vocals here, each growled cry shaking you to your core. Once again, the soft atmospheric guitars set up the final plunge, leaving you soothed before bruised.

If you found yourself mislead by the not-so-subtle artwork that graces the cover of this EP, consider yourself to be one of the lucky ones. By the time you've hit play and digested thirty seconds of what is pumping through your speakers in your general direction, you are already fully aware that this isn't a throw away, wannabe death, doom, black hybrid album. There is real richness to be had here, a real ability to bend and combine sub genres at will into something equally frightening and enjoyable. To clarify, this isn't a one trick pony. It may seem, at some points, to be predictable. And perhaps it actually is. But getting what you grow to expect does not diminish getting more than you bargained for. It isn't overflowing with small subtleties and hidden gems. It is, however, packed full of intense emotional investment and very well thought out songwriting. There are small twists and turns on the album that make it something much more than a crucified man waiting for death. And you can thank Churchburn for putting it right there for the eye to see.


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