December 10, 2010

Music Review: Cough - Ritual Abuse

Cough. Yes, that is the name of the band, not what my throat is begging me to do right now. Seeing a band name like this makes me wonder if all the good ones have been used. Cough. Really? I guess it doesn't really matter if he music is good, right? In the case of Cough it is good, really good, but I think it will take a certain sensibility to listen to it. It is a genre I have always been intrigued by but have never gotten very deep into. Perhaps I should change that. What genre is it? You can call it doom metal, you can call it sludge metal, just don't ask it to pick up the pace.

Cough's Ritual Abuse is their second full length album and their debut for Relapse records. It also comes in stark contrast to the Phobia grindcore album I recently checked out. Where Phobia's album had 17 songs in just over 14-minutes, Ritual Abuse clocks in at 53-minutes and has but 5 songs on it! Something else funny to consider is that before I knew what grindcore was, my mind conjured up something more like this or perhaps Candlemass. I did not think of "grind" as something fast. I learned pretty quickly that there was a difference and what I was thinking of was more sludge or doom metal.

This album plays like the soundtrack to a nervous breakdown, a collection of songs that are destined to abuse the listener in ritualistic fashion. I know, not very funny, but you will get what I mean when you press play. The music is dark, sludgy, fuzzy, and slow. This music intends to abuse the ear canal in as slow a fashion as possible. I love it.

Ritual Abuse hearkens back to the days of Black Sabbath with those minor chords and dark material. Take those Sabbath riffs, fuzz the out a little bit more and cut it down to half, maybe ever quarter, speed. Turn out the lights, put on the headphones, lean back, and go on a slow tour through the grimy depths of hell.

Of course, you have to be at least a little mentally prepared for this journey. No matter how much you read Black Sabbath in association with these guys, they will never be as warm, glib, and approachable as the metal legends are. Yes, that is with a bit of sarcasm. Cough is not an easily accessible act. Their music is cold, there is nothing resembling warmth to be found. For that matter, I suspect a live set would be extraordinarily boring. I am reminded of when I saw a Tool cover band, I was bored to tears (not that they were bad or good, but the music just doesn't work as well in the live setting). These 9-12 minute excursions are not meant to be had in a club. You need to be alone and ready for it.

"Mind Collapse" opens with some wailing feedback for about 15 seconds before a blood-curdling echoey scream rips through the air and the sludge begins. Slower than a slug in molasses it will either pique your curiosity or send you running for something with a pulse.

If there is a criticism that could be laid at the feet of Cough, it is that this collection of songs sound so much alike that they might as well be one song. Of course, it also works in its favor creating one long soundscape wave to listen to.

Bottomline. This is a really good album. It is dark and foreboding, has interesting vocal dynamics, and could play very well to a decomposing mind. Now if you will excuse me, I must go turn out the lights and lock the doors.


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