Other than maybe Full of Hell, hardly any other band in heavy music churns out as many solo and collab albums as The Body (and of course, both these bands are hardly strangers themselves). Since 2010, the experimental drone duo has dropped fourteen helpings of sludgy goodness, including two albums with FoH and one-off projects with Sandworm, Thou, Vampillia and Krieg. Chances are you’ve caught reviews and various write-ups from Heavy Blog for a majority of these albums; just last month Simon highlighted the band’s “lithe, nimble, adaptive” new album I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer. Though I’ve personally had…mixed feelings about The Body in the past (which we’ll touch on later), the band’s workhorse mentality was bound to win me over at some point, as is the case with their new album with the severely underrated Uniform. Clocking in at around a half hour across seven tracks, Mental Wounds Not Healing is a compact but punishing dose of numerous industrial subgenres, leveraging elements of sludge, drone and even a bit of doomgaze to marry the bands’ adjacent styles into a cohesive whole.
Ironically enough, I dub Uniform underrated despite not having covered their excellent album Wake in Fright from last year. The duo has a knack for presiding over a perfect marriage of industrial and punk to create a level of youthful aggression that channels early Nine Inch Nails (except heavier and brasher). The two duos began forming a quartet while touring Europe last Spring, and just over a year later, we’re now treated with an eclectic blend of their styles on their first collaborative effort. In some ways, the end results aren’t overly surprising, though this isn’t a negative in the least. Tracks like “Dead River” and “The Curse of Eternal Life” sound like Whitehouse and White Suns caked in heaps of sludge, with plenty of elongated, droning guitar riffs and fuzzy electronics pounding over simple industrial beats. If ever there was a chopped and screwed drone metal album, it would probably bear a strong resemblance to MWNH.
The primary differences on the first several tracks are more or less with the tempo, but both groups come together for some genuine surprises on the back end of the album. “In My Skin” is a gorgeous blend of the above formula with strong shades of darkwave and doomgaze, as if Have a Nice Life had dropped in on the session that day to provide some feedback. The emotive guitar melody atop thick, moody chord progressions is a stark contrast to the rest of the album, particularly once the groups lift the haze a bit and allow the guitar to truly shimmer with a bright, resonant tone. After a straight up wall of noise on “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” the album concludes with “Empty Comforts,” a similarly melodic track that feels as bleak as its title implies. When bands craft a closing track that truly feels like a eulogy, it only enhances the overall impact the album leaves on the listener. “Empty Comforts” is no exception and excels at feeding the HANL formula through the album’s noisy industrial filter.
We’ve already traversed through the good, sonic ugliness, but it’s now time to address the one pervasive, bad element of The Body’s sound. Your opinion of Chip King’s vocals will likely vary, as is the case among our own staff. Some of us love them, others are indifferent and the rest find them excruciating, myself included. To me personally, they sound like the exact same sample of a high-pitched, monotone shriek distorted in the mix until it sounds like someone is trying to yell over the music from afar. What sets this album apart for the better is twofold. For whatever reason, Michael Berdan of Uniform seems to have secured top billing for the project vocally, as he dominates the conversation on almost every song and positions himself as the “lead” vocalist across the album. Relatedly, his vocals are both spot on for what the music calls for and enjoyable in their own right; his Johnny Rotten-meets-Jacob Bannon sneer has enough attitude to add an extra boost of energy to each track.
I recognize this problem is a personal one, and for listeners familiar and foreign to The Body, King’s vocals may be a non-issue or even an added bonus to the album’s musical offerings. Given how many genres the newly-minted quartet handle with ease, fans of any of these styles will absolutely find something to like about MWNH. Though admittedly brief, there’s no shortage of excellent ideas that could very well lay the foundation to a longer and more grandiose collaboration somewhere down the line. The melodic tracks alone are reason enough to hope the two duos continue working and touring together to keep their creative energies fresh and nimble. Then again, The Body’s shown no signs of wear and tear when it comes to churning out solid material, and my own reservations aside, they deserve heaps of credit for unleashing innovative material year in and year out. And given Uniform’s freshman status in the world of heavy music, MWNH caps off an incredible start to a career that will undoubtedly garner more attention and acclaim with each subsequent release.