Church Of Misery

support Dirt Forge
author AP date 09/10/17 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN

Although the band has been a veritable revolving door for musicians since the release of their 2001 début, “Master of Brutality”, the Japanese stoner metal outfit Church of Misery has managed not only to persevere, but also to maintain its signature, ‘Sabbathian sound. After issuing its sixth studio album, “And Then There Were None…”, last year, the Church’ was once again reduced to founding bassist Tatsu Mikami and then rebuilt with an all-new, all-Japanese cast, which we are about to be introduced to on this mild autumn evening. We, in this case, translates to a decent portion of Copenhagen’s doom and stoner aficionados, most of whom are no doubt also interested in finding out how the local support band, Dirt Forge, has been developing as a live act of late.

All photos courtesy of Michael Hyldgaard Løgtholt

Dirt Forge

Almost two years have passed since I last saw a concert by Dirt Forge; the trio had just released the “Ratcatchers” EP, and despite having opened the proceedings at Crowbar’s headlining show half a year earlier, they were still very much in the process of finding their feet as a live act. But with an impressive début album and plenty of gig experience now in the bag, it would have surprised me to find the band still limping in that respect. Instead, everything about their performance of the opening track, “Rust & Copper”, strikes me as an improvement; the delivery is tight and the three members seem to have built up the confidence needed to shed the inhibitions that used to affect their showmanship.

Mind you, Dirt Forge is still not the wildest or the most mobile bunch of musicians out there. But in the vein of bands like Black Tusk and -(16)-, they play with a fervour now that affords their songs an extra layer of intensity — embodied especially well in the maniacal glare of guitarist/vocalist Alexander Kolby, as he riffs and bellows through the gut-wrenching doom-sludge of “Bring Me Good Noose” halfway into the set. Kolby’s two compatriots — bassist Yannick Bünger Kristensen & drummer Nicolai Lomholt — draw somewhat less attention to themselves but they do seize their opportunities to shine; the former by laying down a moody introduction to “Soothsayer II: Die Waiting” and the latter with a plethora of inspired fills and slight deviations from his drum patterns on record. Details like these are tantamount to a band that has begun to feel comfortable in the art they create, one that trusts its abilities. And although there is still work to be done in terms of how to engage their audience more instead of settling for whatever reaction the audience might muster on its own, there is no denying the fact that Dirt Forge has taken serious leaps over the course of the past year or so.

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Church Of Misery

Despite only joining the band earlier this year, Mikami’s latest ensemble of musicians has settled in well — one might even go so far as to claim that there is no difference between the Church of Misery that played at VEGA in 2014 and the one dispensing riffs galore unto us tonight. The odd thing about this realisation is that Mikami has never been some sort of demigod of performance who invites all of the spotlight onto himself; he is very much a man content with fingering his low-slung bass out of focus and dependant on the rest of his band shouldering the brunt of the visual aesthetic. And the fact that he manages to keep such a transient unit operating so seamlessly to realise his musical vision is thus quite astonishing. Not only do the likes of “El Padrino (Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo)” sound as groovy and nasty as ever, they also look the part — mostly by virtue of vocalist Hiroyuki Takano’s gradual transformation into one of the murderous psychopaths depicted in the band’s lyrical universe, over the course of the performance. Takano owns the weirdo lunatic expressions perfected in the movies of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Rob Zombie, grimacing and glaring at the audience with a gleam of insanity in his eyes as we are treated to a hard-hitting version of the Clutch-on-acid-style “Born to Raise Hell (Richard Speck)” off the band’s 2009 effort, “Houses of the Unholy”, early on.

The setlist, in general, is a treat, focusing not on the latest album, but on the group’s sophomore outing from 2004: “The Second Coming”, which is represented by three of the evening’s eight chosen tracks. Not that it matters — the one thing that Church of Misery is most renowned for is mastering the art of the riff; combining the absolute best four- and six-string ideas of Black Sabbath, Trouble and Sleep, and pumping them them out faster and in greater quantities than my heart pumps blood, song in, song out, on every album. Guitarist Yasuti Muraki handles his part in this with finesse (albeit resigning himself to a background role in performance terms), carrying us all away into a lucid dream as we imagine bearing witness to Ted Bundy’s atrocities during the iconic piece “I, Motherfucker”, whilst headbanging of course. With most of the songs stretching well past ‘ordinary’ length and being awash with spaced out theremin effects, this is the natural state in which to enjoy Church of Misery’s music; however, Takano does interrupt the trance on two occasions, first by barging into the crowd at the onset of “Red Ripper Blues (Andrei Chikatilo)” and since by delivering an extremely disturbing, frenetic vocal performance in “Candyman (Dean Corll)”.

One could argue that after 70 minutes, the relative inflexibility of the band’s music starts to take a toll on one’s patience and that rather than becoming lost in the music, one’s mind simply begins to drift. But then, the sheer amount and quality of the riffs being dealt and the way in which the performance becomes inseparable from the concept are enough to negate most of the sameness that admittedly characterise Church of Misery’s repertoire. There is no re-invention of the wheel taking place here, but as far as stoner metal goes, few can do it better than this Japanese cult icon.

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Setlist:

  • 01. El Padrino (Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo)
  • 02. Make Them Die Slowly (John George Haigh)
  • 03. Born to Raise Hell (Richard Speck)
  • 04. Taste the Pain (Graham Young)
  • 05. Red Ripper Blues (Andrei Chikatilo)
  • 06. I, Motherfucker (Ted Bundy)
  • 07. Candyman (Dean Corll)

— Encore —

  • 08. Murderfreak Blues (Tommy Lynn Sells)

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