Though they have only two albums to their name, Richmond’s Cough have quickly become renowned as one of the most suffocating and cavernous bands to emerge from the doom metal resurgence in America today. Their previous two albums were both monolithic slabs of gut-rumbling fuzz, terrifying shrieks and an overall no-frills attitude to their sound that caught a lot of attention in the underground, particularly one of the genre’s demigods, Jus Osborn of the legendary Electric Wizard. It makes perfect sense that Osborn would be the one to produce Still They Pray considering Cough’s affinity for vintage gear, pummeling riffs and their desire to cloak their sound in a swirling, psychedelic haze. It’s been six years since Cough was last on the radar of the metal world (largely due to frontman Parker Chandler’s time spent playing in Windhand), but the band hasn’t lost any of their ferocity or desire to completely level a set of speakers. They’re just taking a lot more time to do it now.
It’s pretty apparent that the band wants to wear their Electric Wizard influences right on their sleeve right off the bat. Whether it’s the rhythm guitar tones of “Possession,” the wah-heavy lead work throughout or the sample that drops at the start of “Haunter of the Dark,” everything screams Dopethrone for a large portion of the album’s first three cuts (and plenty of other moments on the record as well). But what is the most apparent influence from this has to be Chandler’s slightly more melodic vocal approach taken on most of the album. While albums like Ritual Abuse drew much more from the nail-scraping brutality of Eyehategod vocally, Still They Pray actually delivers some melodies that can be hummed back and draw much more of a 70s proto-doom comparison than ever before. There’s still a healthy amount of screaming to be found here, it’s just used more for a dynamic effect now instead of as a default. Still They Pray even closes things off with an acoustic ballad in the title track, providing a much needed reprieve for the listener after being assaulted for over an hour.
The album’s length does detract from the overall experience after a while, however. While previous Cough albums had kept things at around 50 minutes in length, Still They Pray is a whopping 67 minutes with its eight tracks and can unfortunately cause a bit of homogeny during the album’s runtime. The band’s overall trudging approach to songwriting is definitely not for the faint of heart or ear, and it’s easy to get lost in some of the record’s longer tracks like “Dead Among the Roses” and “Shadow of the Torturer.” Thankfully though, the band seems to recognize this with the track placement and throws in a few curveballs, like the more subdued vibes at the start of “Let It Bleed” and including some terrifying electric organ in “The Wounding Hours,” the album’s most interesting track.
Still They Pray isn’t a game changer for the style, but it’s certainly nice to see that Cough haven’t lost any of their drive for creating some truly dominating doom metal. Things may get a bit bloated and the band probably could have trimmed things up a bit, but this is still an album worth checking out for those looking to get pulverized by titanic guitar chords and tripped-out textures.
Cough’s Still They Pray gets…