Cough Still They Pray Cover 2016There comes a time in life when you need to walk away from something for a little while to appreciate what you have. Whether it’s painting, turning wood, or writing music reviews, you eventually reach a point when you have to step away from what gives you life in order to recharge and attack it with renewed focus and energy. Playing in a band is no different. Being crammed in a tiny van, hauling your gear across the country, and functioning on very little sleep while spending the nights spooning with your fellow bandmates is not one’s idea of a great time, even if the pay-off of playing live and getting your music heard offsets this. Virginia’s Cough took a much-needed five year break after touring for their last album, 2010’s Ritual Abuse, and are back with their first for Relapse, the ominously titled Still They Pray, and if anything, the time off did them a world of good.

Opener “Haunter of the Dark” lurches forth with a dirty Sabbath-on-quaaludes riff that carries on for a few minutes before the drums kick in and bassist Parker Chandler (Windhand) starts screaming in anguish. Having never heard this band prior, I kept reading comparisons to fellow doom metallers Pallbearer, but this couldn’t be a more inaccurate comparison if they tried, because if Pallbearer is the mopey-yet-hopeful honor student looking to win hearts, then Cough is its older brother who’s completely given up on optimism and adhered strictly to a diet of classic Sabbath, YOB, and Electric Wizard‘s first few albums. This is doom without hope, and Cough do a damn good job of conveying unrelenting heaviness between the riffs of David Cisco and Brandon Marcey, as well as the pummeling drums of Joseph Arcaro.

That feeling of hopeless suffocation permeates throughout Still They Pray with varying degrees of success. Immediate follow-up “Possession” has one of the best drum fills this side of Bill Ward about halfway into the song’s ten-minute run time. Penultimate track and album highlight “The Wounding Hours” contains Chandler’s most anguished howls, the saddest guitar melodies, and the most methodical pacing I’ve heard all year, all set atop of an organ, and is a strong Song o’ the Year candidate. When Cough are running on all cylinders and keep their focus, Still They Pray makes for an incredible listen, and puts them in good company with other American doom metal bands.

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But there’s a problem, and it’s a big one. The songs all go on for too long, taking a great idea and drilling it slowly into the ground. “Let Me Bleed” would be a stronger song had a few minutes been shorn off  of its nine-minute length. Instrumental “Shadow of the Torturer” is torturous at over ten minutes. Also, closer “Still They Pray,” an acoustic ballad, would be better served if it were placed elsewhere in the album’s track listing, as it doesn’t make for a good closer. Luckily, the production by Electric Wizard‘s Jus Oborn is warm and fuzzy, especially in the guitars and bass, without suffering from too much compression.

Despite some of the qualms I have with Still They Pray, I did enjoy parts of my time with the album. It’s long in the tooth, sure, but some of my favorite doom metal bands could use some editing as well in that department. It might not be my pick for essential doom, but you could do far worse, and “The Wounding Hours” must be heard at least once. Here’s to more from these guys.

 


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: cough.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Cough666
Releases worldwide: June 3rd, 2016

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  • Monsterth Goatom

    It’s a pity when there’s some good songs, but not a uniformly strong set of songs. Fwiw, the album cover reminds me a bit of Screams and Whispers.

    • Tentacleye

      Yes! Anacrusis seems to be one of those bands that everyone should adore but no one has heard of. At least it seems like no one has heard of them. I remember buying Screams and Whispers right when it came out. It was mind-boggling then and it still is today.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        That cover sure looks like Screams and Whispers…

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Is that first paragraph a hint toward your reviewing future, Grymm?

    • Grymm

      I’ve slowed down a little bit, but I’m still gonna pump out reviews on here.

      Work has been busy as of late, and next weekend marks the anniversary of my Dad’s passing. That’s my “do nothing and reflect/recharge while paying respects” time. But rest assured, I’m not leaving anytime soon. :)

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Glad to see you’re here to stay. Sorry about your dad, man.

        • Grymm

          Aww, thanks. It’s been 8 years now, but he was a great man. I’ll be back in no time!

          • Name’s Dalton

            My dad passed from pancreatic cancer 16 years ago this December 9th. He was 57; I, just 28. I still often take time to reflect and recall memories of him to myself and to others. It’s been eight years for you, but I know what you mean, and my condolences.

          • Grymm

            Thank you, and my condolences to you as well.

            When people say it gets easier, it *might*, but your heart still feels heavy, especially if you were close (like we were in the last five years of his life).

          • Name’s Dalton

            Yeah I hear you. My was my best friend and mentor.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    5 years should be enough time to find a singer. Guess not.

  • InvertedComment

    This is Cough’s second release on Relapse. Their first release on Relapse was Ritual Abuse.

  • Vassago Gamori

    Brain parasites meet ascending bowel cancer.

  • I saw Cough opening for Yob in 2012 (I guess that was a hiatus from the hiatus?) and in that live setting they sounded absolutely crushing. I haven’t had a chance to check out the new record yet, but on past records the song length didn’t strike me as a problem, but rather an integral part of this band’s approach to writing music. Gotta be in the mood for it, but then it works just fine.

  • Adjudant

    It’s just the band name, no thanks…