Fresh from their evidently finite dormancy, Japan’s popular death-doom export, Coffins, is back with the mini-album Craving to Eternal Slumber. The legend that is Happy Metal Guy favorably reviewed their previous release, and this largely fits into the cannon they’ve already established for themselves. Sitting more comfortably at the death end of the death-doom spectrum, mid-paced deathy riffs and a thick tone abound, as does the almost comical devotion to archetypal crusty death lyrics and titles.
See “Decapitated Crawl” for example. This little ditty is the juiciest slice of old-school death metal on offer. It’s certainly slower than is traditional, but the opening riff is very nifty. This riff transitions and develops throughout the song’s progression but retains its core identity. The solo occupying the middle is more engaging than those offered elsewhere, and the cacophonous riffing from 2:10 effectively drives the album to a satisfactory conclusion as the tempo gradually quickens. The meaty tone heightens the aggression and is a powerful tool. The closest point of comparison to my ears is Autopsy, but with doomier characteristics.
This track aside however, the riffs have a tendency to long outstay their welcome. Part of the reason that “Decapitated Crawl” stands out is that its core riff evolves throughout; this is not the case for most of the tracks, even if a riff begins with a strong groove. “Hatred Storm” and “Tyrant” fit this mold. The title track suffers the most from this, as the slowest-paced, most doomy track of the album. The lead, while powerful, is more slow and lumbering than slow and crushing. The vocalist also lacks the emotional range evident in the death-doom greats, utilizing a hideous, indistinct growl. This arguably works for the crusty death material but lacks nuance for anything reaching beyond that.
The repetitive riffs are a shame since Coffins are suddenly injected with a shot of adrenaline when the songs draw towards their ends. The aforementioned “Hatred Storm” and “Tyrant” both finish much more convincingly compared to their mid-song slumps, ramping up the tempo and weaving more into the melodies. “An Obscure Pain” is rather dull until its final minute – it still isn’t stellar but it does step up. The typical song structure involves an initial bout of throbbing enthusiasm with a groovy riff, a disappointing milking of this excitement until it runs dry, before returning with pert spike of energy.
The production is inconsistent too. The massive tone is effectively emphasized, but more could have been done in the mixing and mastering to better distinguish particular guitar melodies. Solos are easily missed in subjugation to the chugging rhythms.
In total, Craving to Eternal Slumber is well within Coffins’ typical stride. It’s a nasty splat of doom-influenced death metal, executed solidly but not outstandingly. Persevere through the dull mid-sections and most songs are rewarding. I’ll not be so generous as HMG given the song-writing inadequacies and mismatch between the vocalist and doom aspects, but this is a competent death metal release.