Collaborative ratios are one of the first points of discussion mentioned before and after two prominent bands announce that they’ve entered the studio together (whether physically or virtually). Full of Hell & Merbow initially had fans pondering the potential interplay between Full of Hell‘s powerviolence and Merzbow‘s noise, which then evolved into a discussion of the artists’ choice to clearly split the emphasis between the FoH dominated main release and the Merzbow-heavy follow up Sister Fawn. Of course, the subsequent and more prevalent point of discussion always becomes the album’s quality; no matter how distinguished the two halves of a collaboration are, the final product must hold its own. Metallica and Lou Reed may have produced some of music’s greatest albums, but Lulu is certainly not one of them, something that most of their fans made abundantly clear. Juxtaposing these examples with The Body and Krieg‘s self-titled debut as a collective is merely meant as a framing device, as the project is more cohesive than FoH/Merzbow and not nearly as bad as Loutallica. But while the album comes together as a seamless mesh of the two bands’ focuses in experimental music, doom/sludge and black metal, their times together as bedfellows hasn’t produced a noteworthy offspring.
It’s impossible to begin the critiques of The Body & Krieg with anything but the vocals, specifically one prominent choice of screech. Typical black metal growls appear prominently throughout the album, often times taking on raspy inflections or a subtle gurgle. The delivery isn’t revolutionary, but it’s solid enough, and is immeasurably preferable to the high-pitched shriek which remains grating throughout every single track. Somewhere between a Wilhelm scream transformed into BM vocals and the listener’s mother nagging about the noise through a closed door and over blaring speakers, it’s unclear how such an obnoxious delivery could make it past the initial writing process. What exacerbates these vocals is their production; every single yelp is buried in the mix, sounding as if they’re coming from outside of the track rather than existing within it. Even so, it’s still difficult to ignore their presence, and they always manage to pull the listener out of the track’s happenings and into a state of pure annoyance. “Carved Out and Carved In” seems as though it will be the only track to provide some respite, but the unpleasantness resumes just as the conclusion rolls in, effectively scrapping everything the track had built up prior to that point.
Then again, what is built by this track and others isn’t particularly gripping. The Body and Krieg don’t provide much of a reason for their collaboration during the absence of these trying vocals; nothing ever truly illuminates itself as a statement of purpose for the project. As the intro indicated, there is certainly cohesion among the track’s sounds, with dark ambient drones and noise pulsating along within the subtle treatment of black metal. But what the album has in terms of cohesive collaboration it lacks in terms of coherent composition. Each track contains mid-paced, electronic darkness, guitar riffs stumbling around or merely exist and the decent and intolerable vocals taking turns belting away. Some mildly interesting moments surface towards the end of the record with the closing two tracks, neither of which rises above there vocal limitations. Still, there are some promising ideas present with the dreary sludge metal romp on “The Final Nail,” and the fantasy of a Nine Inch Nails and Sunn O))) collaboration that “A Failure Worth Killing Yourself” conjures is admittedly enticing.
If only the totality of these tracks and the preceding six songs contained enough intrigue to carry the project as whole. Instead, The Body and Krieg prove that two independently great components don’t always make the best cocktail. Perhaps a few adjustments could have salvaged the collaboration; completely overhauling the vocals would be an imperative start, as well as fleshing out ideas into more detailed and coherent compositions. This misstep obviously doesn’t effect the bands’ overall discographies, and fans will thankfully have some quality records to return to after tolerating this collaborative venture.
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The Body & Krieg’s S/T gets…