(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Japan’s Coffins, which is due for release on September 20 by Relapse Records.)
2019 has been a really strong year for death metal. Here is an album that continues the trend.
Not the biggest fan of these guys going into this album, but familiar with their work. There is still some rough around the edges grit, but here their sound is much more dialed in. When they lock into a more palm-muted chug you can really hear the difference. It’s their fifth album in 20 years, and this sounds like the one they have taken the most time with. There are more sparse touches of punk. They are more deliberate on songs like “The Tranquil End”, but not jumping on this year’s death-doom bandwagon by any means.
They have always had fleeting flirtations with doom but are pretty committed to death metal this time around. Doom is being used as more of a dynamic shade to contrast with the more up-tempo double-bass flourishes. The vocals stay at their low grunt the entire album, sitting back in the mix to allow the cool angular guitar lines that crop up room to breathe. Their are a few overdubs of higher snarling harmonies doubling up the main vocal from time to time.
Dark, dense, and organic, the music can deliver all the qualities I need from death. Their mid-paced chugs are probably their best quality. It’s not something they live and die by in all their songs, but when you hear it there is no denying the attraction. Just being heavy as fuck, in and of itself, will not sell me on a band. There are 20 of those albums sitting in my in-box every morning. It’s catchy riffs and caring about your song writing that makes the difference. These guys have sold me on those two things.
Condensed and less cavernous early Incantation is the most prevalent influence I hear. Even if they are riding this hell train at a slower pace it’s still more death metal than another band trying to recycle Paradise Lost riffs. “Insane” has way more groove than I recall these guys ever having before. The more abrasive feedback and fuzz from the guitar sound has also been polished back, making this a more user-friendly effort. “Birth Postmortem” digs into a heavier grind than the previous song yet manages to maintain a great deal of groove.
The album closer “Gateways to Dystopia” leans into a more rambling sludge-like tone, dialing in more rock than death metal, aside from the vocals, which stay the same for the entire album. Given the genre this can be forgiven in the face of the neck-jerking riffs thrown down on this album. This leaner sound has all the teeth in it that fans of the band want, while winning over people like me who were on the fence. Thus far it’s gaining traction on my iPod rotation, which is the biggest compliment I can give an album. This one comes out September 20th on Relapse Records.