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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Enochian Crescent
Black Church

Rating: 5/10 ?

June 21, 2006
I was a little apprehensive writing this review. I thought this album (and the cultish ideology behind it) really blew but - given the violent history of reprisals for Black Metal insults - I was fully aware that I could be savagely beaten or killed for saying it. Bands like Emperor, Burzum and Mayhem have been tied to murder, fascism and arson. Shit, Mayhem's lead singer killed himself and when the band's guitar player found the body he didn't report it, instead he photographed the carnage and used the image for their next album cover. These Black Metal dudes make Gangsta Rappers look like The Wiggles. I have decided to put fear of retribution from Count Grishnackh aside and honestly discuss Black Church. I think the best place to start is with G.I. Joe.

As a kid I was a G.I. Joe fan. I watched every episode - Duke, Snake-Eyes, The Baroness and especially the ever whiny Cobra Commander - I loved them one and all and it is in fact Cobra Commander that links Enochian Crescent to the military cartoon. Vocalist Jann Kuru (aka Drakh Wrath), for all intents and purposes, sounds exactly like Cobra Commander. As Black Church began to play the first time through and Kuru screamed "Go, Go, Go!!!!" I was struck by how similar it was to "Cobra retreat!" I guess the vocals are fairly typical for Black Metal - venomous screaming, basically borderline nonsensical ravings, punctuated by chants from a voice that sounds like Lurch of Addams Family fame. The vision of Cobra Commander and Lurch together in the studio laying down these tracks is funny enough, but when it comes to the lyrics the shit gets even more ridiculous.

Lyrically speaking Enochian Crescent offer up references to the Qabbalah, the coming apocalypse, Jesus revolting against God and various forms of evil that must be plaguing people in the band's homeland, Finland. Apparently Enochian Crescent was on hiatus for several years, during which time they spent a lot of time thinking about Evil with a capital E.

Before we delve into the philosophy behind these songs we must first address the philosophers. Recently, Drakh Wrath accidentally cut his wrists on stage because, during an Alice Cooper-esque attempt to simulate a suicidal act, he forgot to check how sharp the knife was. He was promptly taken to the hospital.

And so it is, with Slippy McKnife as our (un)reliable narrator, that we are submerged into the (under)world of evil known as The Black Church, which is surprisingly similar to going to regular-ass Church. The album's incessant chanting, discussion of mystical beings and references to ceremony all seem to advocate for a much darker and louder version of the Judeo-Christian tradition. One of the things I always hated about church was the conformity - things like chanting prayers and the unquestionable belief in an invisible Man annoyed the hell out of me. Chanting abounds on this album and, although the subject matter is scarier and more evil, it is still basically the same conformist bullshit that I might get on any given Sunday morning in the pews. It would be far more revolutionary for these guys to scream about reality, and far scarier too. Holy wars - like the American War on Terror - and religiously imposed ignorance such as the church-sanctioned denial of access to birth control scare the hell out of me, instilling far more fear than lame allusions to Lovecraft, Lucifer and LaVey ever could. But what can you expect when a band's vocalist has a makeup budget on par with Ru Paul's and the bassist chooses to go by an alias of Dr. von Pfosforus?

There is one thing that Black Church has going for it, and it hits you where it counts the first you press play. The drums are thunderous. Bishop B. Bolton is a madman behind the kit and packs more beats into the span of ten seconds than Satan himself would condone. The guitar work is pretty incredible too, but it is often squandered - or should I say sacrificed? - at the expense of Wrath's vocals, which is unfortunate because these guys can really play. One would hope such a talented group of musicians would find a less ridiculous focus; if these guys would hang up the fantasy land dramatics and focus on writing songs they could make something really interesting.

All in all Black Church is really fast and really intense, but it doesn't leave a lasting impression. I don't see much chance that I will be humming a riff from "Chalk Face" on my way to the dog park or that, on my way to work, I will be unable to get the chorus from "Hendekgrammation" out of my head. No, for an album that some have hailed as a triumphant return, I find this to be sadly uninteresting. I did enjoy the brief mental image that it conjured up for me though. The thought of a cramped Finnish sound booth whose fictional occupants, taking a break from the monotony of opening the door for Cousin It and shooting red lasers at Sgt. Slaughter, decided to record a Black Metal album. Cobra Commander and Lurch - I salute you.

Reviewed by Jon Burke
A contributing writer and a Chicago resident who will not be goaded by LASís editor into revealing any more details about his potentially sordid affairs.

See other reviews by Jon Burke



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