My first encounter with The Body came when I was in college. I was perusing the CD stacks of my favorite music store in between classes and I saw, in the staff picks, an eerie little package with two faceless pagan effigies in a stark, monochromatic landscape that was more negative space than subject. I wrote down the name of the album and stole it as soon as I could reach my computer.
The first band I ever paid attention to and fell in love with as a conscious fan of music was Black Sabbath. Coincidentally, it was the song “Black Sabbath”, but a rehearsal version that added three minutes and zero extra chords to the studio version. Slow, deep, and hard. It informed my musical tastes in a way that deserves its own dedicated study. The other important takeaway from Black Sabbath is that they weren’t afraid to take a sharp left on their albums.
Ask any confused metalhead listening to “Planet Caravan” or “Solitude” in between slow head bangs. It’s a good trait because it keeps the heavy bits from losing their impact. A well-considered piece of music should be dynamic, with many dips and peaks. This is a lesson The Body has built a career on. I was confused my first listen to them; a nearly eight minute female choir builds and builds, increasing in complexity and loveliness. Is this the right record? The choir builds to a colossal drop into abrasive, ear destroying noise.
God almighty, this is the one. That was the first track on And the Waters of the Earth Shall Turn to Blood, from 2010. My daily music tastes are contradictory. It is my duty to tell you that I am currently divided almost equally between sludge metal and top 40 pop rock (Paul Simon rubbing shoulders with Thou). It is also my duty to tell you the new album by The Body begins as their albums have in the past, with colossal screaming, shards of sculpted feedback, and fat drum beats like a cyclops playing with a set of toys. It is my duty to tell you that the remainder of the album would not be too jarring on a playlist of contemporary pop music. This album is called No One Deserves Happiness.
The Body has never been more accessible and we are all better for it. Chrissy Wolpert is the honorary third member, the Atilla Csihar to their Sunn O))). She was responsible for the female chorus and vocals on previous releases and here, she dominates. The band’s brutal riffs fold into compacted origami forms, slithering around and under digital fuzz and danceable drum beats, more noise and texture than the sound of a typical metal band. Horror sounds and shrieks and stings warp in and around the mix. The lyrics and vocal elements revolve around the concept of the feminine, sometimes directly, as in the lyrics to “Adamah”, sung by guest vocalist Maralie Armstrong.
As a longtime listener of metal, the concept of femininity is always around but rarely evoked directly. In bands that aren’t fronted by women, women are usually gracing the cover of an album as a pagan mother earth goddess figure, adding counterpoint vocals (see the beauty and the beast vocal subgenre), or getting fucked with a knife. It’s interesting to the ears to hear an album so explicitly female made by a male duo.
Though, The Body is no stranger to this form of aural equality, it’s another of the many ways The Body subverts the script of what a metal band is “allowed” to do. Other long-term metal fans are aware of the schism between the trve kvlt hardliners and the experimentally-minded musicians on the vanguard of so-called “hipster metal”. I don’t know if The Body is subject to the same hate bands like Liturgy and Wolves in the Throne Room get, but I do know The Body are breaking open any barrier they can in increasingly vicious ways. This new release will hurt your ears and you can shake your ass to it. I can’t wait to hear what’s next.
Featured image credit: http://rf5.org