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Another year, another collaborative album from The Body. Whatever roots the duo has in the sludge metal underground has long been shrouded by a desire to completely buck the conventions of heavy music, and music in general for that matter.

Their eagerness to join forces with other musicians has also become a staple of their presence in the scene, from relatively like-minded bands like Thou and Full of Hell, to complete curveballs like neo-folk with Big|Brave or more recently the electronic producer OAA. The latter of these attests to The Body‘s interest in crossing their loud guitar music into electronica or industrial. They even sample their old songs in their new ones, which might explain why this new album Orchards of a Futile Heaven with Dis Fig feels so within The Body‘s current M.O., for all its weirdness.

It really goes to show how far into the void The Body has reached as the opening cut “Eternal Hours” nightmarish soundscape of dissonant drones and isolated drums. It’s more akin to death industrial than anything metal-adjacent, not without Dis Fig incorporating her spectral vocal harmonies. The Body‘s sound has often used beautiful female voices in their approach, whether it’s the Assembly of Light Choir or Lingua Ignota mastermind Kristin Hayter. So, hearing soothing singing commingle with Chip King‘s demonic chicken squawk cries of despair is par for the course at this point. Orchard stands out for its sparsely emphatic sampling and synthetic abuse.

It becomes hard to tell whether the distorted murk of “Dissent, Shame” comes from a guitar, a modular synth, or both. Either way, Dis Fig uses this hideous canvas to paint lavish portraits of melancholy, matching the buildup of disjointed bass drum hits and shrill arpeggios with tastefully treading the line between singing and screaming. This slow-burning crescendo also occurs on “To Walk a Higher Path,” and also shares drummer Lee Buford‘s willingness to dispense with percussion to let more subtle rhythmic pulses emerge gradually. It’s also on this cut that King‘s vocals take on more of the role of a piercing noise patch, having become too bizarre to function like a human voice.

Despite its caustic nature, Orchard achieves a strangely meditative quality. Much of this can be owed to Dis Fig‘s singing, but it also goes to show the nuance at play in the instrumentals. On paper, the title track should be nothing but annoying, with King screeching his brains out over minimal synth gurglings. But with an attention to detail and gradual layering of sounds, the song expands into a cinematic catharsis. It’s like power electronics with a chord progression—a raft to float on within the dark sea of noise. To this effect, “Holy Lance” comes off like an occult ritual, with echoing clatterings and chirps spattered into a warbly loop. What’s more interesting is how Dis Fig‘s voice remains the glue for this deep atmosphere even after the track’s eventual explosion into explosive drum hits and sheets of harrowing cacophony.

Ironically, it’s not until “Coils of Kaa” that Orchard enters territory that at least somewhat resembles The Body‘s roots (guitar chords… how do they work?”). Amid bizarre loops and intense dynamic shifts, King and Dis Fig combine their efforts for arguably the most terrifying vocal performances of the year so far. As the latter plunges into an insane diatribe of inane ramblings, bestial brayings, and melodic mutations, King‘s voice enters the mix like he’s possessing her with the spirit of his signature demonic chicken. The palpable sense of dread more than earns its almost-ten-minute runtime, as electro-acoustic embellishments come to a head with more familiar exercises in filthy anti-riffs and plodding drums.

Indeed, the decision to leave the sludge machinations for the last couple of tracks helps make the final cut “Back to the Water” that much more impactful. If the penultimate track is the scariest on the album, then this final act shows how melancholic The Body can become in its harshest moments. As Dis Fig channels all of her sorrow into lines like “I miss you… Please don’t die,” King and Buford‘s grotesque metallic perversions provide the perfect foundation for her powerful vocal range.

The Body‘s discography can be tricky to navigate, but it’s hard to deny when they hit the right frequencies. Their work with Dis Fig shows their innate ability to create beauty from ugliness, and how easily they can transcend metal and plant their flag in untethered sonic oblivion. The fact Orchards of a Futile Heaven does this with emotive heft puts it high on this list of The Body albums to check out.

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