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Coffins, ‘The Fleshland’ – Album Review

Coffins, 'The Fleshland'
Relapse Records

Coffins have been bringing their punishing brand of sludgy death/doom from Japan for 17 years, but really got the party started with their debut album in 2005. ‘The Fleshland’ is the band’s first album in the last five years and worth the wait. It seems their writing process is about as slow as their music, but what the band stresses is quality over quantity in an era where recording an album can easily be done at home.

‘Here Comes Perdition’ starts things off nice and slow before breaking into an uptempo rhythmic frenzy that will contrast the doom elements for the 46 minute duration of the album. The verse here is even a bit of a nod to ‘Evil Infection’ off the band’s 2006 album ‘The Other Side of Blasphemy.’  This pace transitions well into the neckwrecker ‘Hellbringer’ that sees the band at their best crust/punk by way of death metal riffing.

Where Coffins truly excel is when they trudge through songs at a grueling midtempo march. ‘The Vacant Pale Vessel’ is the highlight of the Japanese quartet’s fourth album. Guitarist Uchino often forgoes any lead playing, but textures the pummeling sludge with simple, yet effective leads to accent the unforgettable riffing here. The solo section in this death/doom rocker is bluesy, showing that not everything about this band is ugly and gritty.

In the five years since ‘Buried Death’ was released, Coffins have undergone some changes. This album marks the first for the group as a foursome. Ryo had been playing drums with the guys since 2010, but has since abandoned his drum stool in favor of taking front and center as the frontman. Uchino is no longer pulling double duty as the guitarist and vocalist and Ryo’s deep gutturals are a welcome departure from Uchino’s more barking style.

The production on ‘The Fleshland’ is easily the best Coffins have had in their career. Gone is the boomy, muffled bass sounds that sometimes distorted the rest of the mix and hopefully here to stay is the crystal clear, punchy, yet raw sound we have here. The drums sound like drums instead of computer samples and the cymbals resonate well and cut through the weight of the rest of the instruments.

‘The Fleshland’ is a downtuned volley between tempos and an absolute rhythmic juggernaut. Rather than changing or tweaking their style, Coffins remain true to the type of music they set out to create when forming the band in 1996. Unwavering, the four have merely set out to write a better batch of songs each time they hit the studio and nailed it once again. One of Japan’s greatest extreme metal exports are a prime example of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

4.5 Stars

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