Churchburn – Genocidal Rite Review

So many outside motivators have this way of impacting everything you do in life. You set a plan down, put it into motion, get all your t’s crossed, your i’s dotted, and you always remember to carry the one over to the next column on the left whenever you’re adding…and then, you’re blindsided by a person, situation, or some other thing that topples your best-laid intentions like a house of cards. For Churchburn‘s Dave Suzuki, it was the loss of a family member last year. The legendary guitarist/vocalist (and former Vital Remains alumnus), along with co-founder Ryan McCaffrey (ex-Grief and Sin of Angels) and longtime members Timmy St. Amour and Derek Moniz, dug deep, wrote, re-wrote, and recorded what can best be described as a fitting tribute to a loved one, told only in a way that Churchburn can.

That is, with equal parts ferocity and mournfulness, with just a helping or two of some nasty blackened embellishments to help block out any of that pesky light. After a brief but effective introduction in the form of static, feedback, and a church bell ringing, the title track carries you through wave after wave of abject despair and grief, all while simultaneously pummeling you to death. When things go quiet almost halfway in, you’re given just enough breathing space to gather your senses before being dragged back into the mire once more, with Suzuki hurling a tasty, somber lead (out of many), shrieking and surveying the chaos like a battle-worn supernatural being soaring above the wastelands while St. Amour riffs away with reckless abandon. This remains the formula throughout the majority of Genocidal Rite‘s barely-a-half-hour runtime.

This formula, needless to say, needs no tinkering, no adjusting, or any sort of alterations to get its point across. Genocidal Rite, for all its ugliness and lack of compromise, remains a hulking behemoth in its all-too-brief playthrough. The only other instrumental, the comparatively somber “Unmendable Absence,” remains the sole moment of respite, with its finger-plucked guitars and the soft hum of background noise. Otherwise, Genocidal Rite keeps their dial set squarely on bludgeon before twisting the damn thing clean off. “Swallowed By Dust” features a stomping, almost militaristic feel before once again taking off for the stratosphere with another Suzuki lead. Closer “Sin of Angels,” a cover by the band of the same name and featuring Incantation‘s John McEntee on vocals, pays homage to McCaffrey’s fallen bandmate, Todd Laskowski, in classic Churchburn fashion.

Even with all the murk and mire, Genocidal Rite lurches with an uncomfortable warmth. Moniz’s bass maintains this sludgy, viscous presence throughout, not once hiding in the shadows. McCaffrey’s drums also possess and retain an organic feel, which is not easy to accomplish alongside tar-thick guitars and a bass that just won’t quit. Suzuki’s higher-range growls blend seamlessly as well without overshadowing any of the contributions of his bandmates. This production, combined with songwriting that mixes a weighty subject with various twists, turns, and skull-heaving riffs, props Genocidal Rite into a class mostly on its own, and makes it an incredible listen to return to time and again.

Which is an odd thing to say about a subject that we all have to unwillingly face at one point in our lives. Revisiting moments of a painful loss while creating (or listening to) music can be both draining and cathartic. But while I wish there was more material on Genocidal Rite, what actually is there stands out like an obsidian monolith defiantly opposing the sky, casting a shadow far and wide. I understand not adding more to it if it cheapens what is already there. Besides, it’s a remarkably minor nitpick for an album that’s both a fittingly beautiful tribute and a masterclass in crushing, blackened doom. Miss this at your peril.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Translation Loss Records
Websites: churchburn.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/churchburndoom
Release Worldwide: EU: 2021.11.05 | NA: 12.03.2021

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