Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal, Experimental Rock, Doom Metal, Noise-Rock, Sludge Metal
The Body’s Chip King has described his band’s latest offering as “the grossest pop record of all time”. It’s a description that, if not accurate (and it’s an album that’s certainly in the running), might at least inspire a new hour-and-a-half talking-head show on Channel 4 where the likes of Stuart Maconie discuss the utter filth of Mr Blobby, The Carpenters and Throbbing Gristle’s Hamburger Lady (the go-to song for anyone who wants a particularly gross-out composition). King’s comment does however highlight The Body’s disregard for genre definition.
It was Julia Kristeva who first explored the idea of abjection, in her book The Powers of Horror, referring to the specific feeling of revulsion and cognitive dissonance someone experiences when suddenly forced to confront their own "corporeal reality" — that is, any moment when you come face to face with your own physical grotesqueness, the fact that human beings are profoundly fragile, blood-and-shit-filled fleshbags cursed with a consciousness. It's a central idea to the genre of body horror, and conceptually, it figures prominently in the latest full-length from experimental sludge duo the Body, entitled No One Deserves Happiness. It's their strangest and most difficult record to date, which is saying something considering the depths that Lee Buford and Chip King have plumbed in the past.
Portland, Oregon-based duo the Body (Chip King and Lee Buford) have been continually pushing the boundaries of metal since their inception in the late '90s. On albums such as 2013's Christs, Redeemers, they've added strings, horns, and angelic choirs to their punishing mix of sludgy guitar noise, brutally slow tempos, and shrieking vocals, which sound like a rooster being electrocuted. For their 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness, their goal was to create "the grossest pop album of all time." Depending on one's attitude toward the mainstream, pop music might already be pretty gross, but here the group successfully integrates more accessible elements into its music while still sounding harsh, threatening, ugly, and utterly bizarre.
Setting aside fleeting optimism, and fabricated hopes, and all the things that make life “worth living,” there arises the frightening thought that existence is potentially meaningless and therefore pretty bleak. And, in order to shut out thoughts like these that would cripple society at its core, we distract ourselves through more fulfilling activities and work to make things that provide and maintain this sense of overall fulfillment. To narrow it down more specifically, pop music serves very well as a distraction from life’s primal nihilisms with its celebration of love and loss and joy and passion.
With No One Deserves Happiness, Portland metal experimentalists The Body don’t add any new elements to their sound or introduce any new collaborators. Instead, they reconfigure their core elements — Chip King’s self-waged war between his shrieks and thick sheets of riff-noise, Lee Buford’s man-machine hammer, frequent collaborator Chrissy Wolpert’s vocals and chorus arrangements —and conscript them into their widening vision of the spot where metal intersects with other dark genres. The result is less sprawling than All The Waters of Earth Turn to Blood and scarier for its concision.
No One Deserves Happiness, the new album by the relentlessly bleak Portland-via-Providence sludge-metal duo The Body, is an absolute joy to listen to. That shouldn’t be taken as a surprise or in contradiction with their unrepentant nihilism — metal and hardcore punk have always known how to hit the pleasure center bound up in fuck-this-shit-planet antagonism, and The Body have been one of the most gleeful purveyors of this approach — but the tight focus on ecstatic negation they display here is new. Despite being their first release in awhile credited to only themselves following a slew of collaborative albums (with Thou, Full of Hell, Krieg, among others), the vocal presence of Maralie Armstrong of Providence’s excellent not-quite-cold-wavers Humanbeast and the return of frequent vocalist Chrissy Wolpert of The Assembly Of Light Choir make this distinction more or less irrelevant, similar to The Haxan Cloak’s contributions to their previous “solo” release, I Shall Die Here.
To talk about the sound of the Body is to usually reference words like heavy, dark, and punishing. And, sure, there’s some truth to all that. But there’s something more fundamental it the band’s sound: its physicality. These are sounds that seem like to can feel them—every deep crag, every towering ridge.
The Body's tortured album titles usually force a laugh or two. There's hardly another way to cope with their mixture of progressive doom and power electronics. At this point, it's obvious that the Portlanders have been doing something right. Their discography wouldn't flourish without at least a handful of people giving albums like You, Whom I Have Always Hated and All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood a try.