Anything that comes out on Neurosis’ home label, Neurot Recordings, is sure to be drenched in minimalist atmosphere and performed with impeccable skill. After seeing critical success with 2015’s debut Unanswered Hymns, as well as this year’s split with Fister, Sacramento’s CHRCH are set to lay claim to the mantle of heaviest all-caps doom band with the release of sophomore effort Light Will Consume Us All. Being one of the few AMGers who is into long, drawn-out doom extravaganzas, I laid claim to the album immediately, and have cranked it for a month now — because when songs are ten to twenty minutes long, you need a lot of time to dig into them.
It can be difficult to not deliver a track-by-track review when an album is only three songs long, but I do need to make a few points about each of the tracks on Light Will Consume Us All. “Infinite” is a 20-minute tsunami, building slowly from mournful guitar, then adding drums which sound like they’re being played down the hall and around the corner. As the song builds, the drums come closer, vocals gradually move from doom chanteuse to occult sorceress to black metal she-devil, and the guitars and overdriven bass sear through the mix. It all builds to a massive crescendo at the song’s midpoint, consuming us with blackened nastiness, before fading back into the depths. “Portal” is shorter and nastier, again with the vocal range of Eva Rose on full display. It pounds forth with an odd, almost progressive drumline before settling into monolithic riffs and mumbled lyrics. In similar fashion to “Infinite,” the arrangement of “Portal” is varied, albeit at a snail’s pace. “Aether” closes the album in short (meaning ten minutes) fashion and with a distinctly Pallbearer-ish feel, very melancholy in its delivery. Only three songs, but all 45 minutes are unsettlingly effective for those of us with patience.
When laying down tracks that are essentially long-form songs, the line between self-indulgent and entertaining is often overstepped. This is no Mirror Reaper (Bell Witch) in interminable length, but you know going into a CHRCH album that the songs require patience. That patience is rewarded by exemplary performances, not the least of which is Eva Rose’s vocals. She excels at every vocal style, a huge advantage in these types of songs. Adam Jennings’ drumming is viscerally powerful, while Ben Cathcart lays down some speaker-wrecking bottom end with his bass. Dual guitar work from Karl Cordtz and Chris Lemos features obligatory heavy riffing as well as emotion-laden solos. It’s impossible to find a weakness in the band’s delivery or musicianship, although I would like Rose’s clean vocals to be a little more present in the mix.
In fact, the only weakness when it comes to CHRCH is in their style: epic doom is not for everyone. Those who can’t, or don’t want to, put up with tracks of this length won’t be won over, although they will find moments of brilliance throughout. With songs of this nature a band can’t afford to miss the mark, and while “Infinite” is one of the best songs I’ve heard this year, the guitar solos towards the end of “Portal” can seem to drag even to the patient amongst us, and the languid (to put it mildly) pace of “Aether” might make folks look anxiously towards the “Next” button on their music player — even though it offers a glimpse of what Pallbearer would sound like with more gain in their attack, and if you can hang in there to the seven-minute mark you’ll be treated to a full-on black metal ripper to close things out.
Only two albums into a promising career, CHRCH prove that they have the musicianship and songwriting chops to hang in there with doom’s heavy hitters. The ability of Eva Rose to move effortlessly between ethereal and demonic vocal styles gives Light Will Consume Us All extra depth and dimension that not all bands can lay claim to. Thick, lush production, heavy bass, and excellent guitar arrangements all lead to yet another strong doom record in what’s been a damned fine year for the genre.