Japan is better remembered as the country of eclectic and elaborately dressed, KISS-inspired metal bands. But it is also home to extreme metal bands with a straightforward musical approach. No gimmicks; just plain clothes, unshaved faces, silly lyrics, cartoonish album artwork and bulldozing riff after bulldozing riff.
Coffins is such a band, and they are a 17-year-old, vomitey death/doom metal band from the Japanese region full of Pidgeys, Rattatas, Geodudes, Tentacools and Zubats. Despite being surrounded by dozens and dozens of cutesy critters, their music is anything but for the Gameboy- or Nintendo-DS-wielding toddlers.
Opening track “Here Comes Perdition” immediately sets the tone for the filth-ridden and misanthropic soundscape that is The Fleshland by utilizing an introduction that sounds like something out of the Terminator movie series’ soundtrack: a low-pitched and machine-like rumble that gets gradually louder. Then, a heavily distorted guitar riff pierces through the fog of noise before culminating in a series of similar riffs, only with the drums and bass guitar joining the fray this time round.
From there on, it’s vomit-mode switched on for vocalists Ryo and Uchino (who is also the guitarist). The amount of puke they dump into your ear canals is unbelievably disgusting, but gratifying in the usual, extreme-metallistically sadistic kinda way. From the first track all the way to the ninth and final one, both pukers never fail to clog up your ear canals like drunk and bulimic people whom mistook your ear for a friggin’ toilet bowl.
Despite the clearly drawn and somewhat colourful album cover, the production style of The Fleshland isn’t as squeaky clean as most modern metal albums. In fact, it is quite raw and similar in vein to the numerous splits Coffins has released over the years, each of which typically has dull and DIY-style album artwork (as you might have guessed). Hence, the sound of the album as a whole generally feels murky, and it is hard to discern one guitar line from another.
Guitar feedback and cymbals-heavy drumming seem to be utilized on purpose to convey this DIY aesthetic too—hear “Rotten Disciples”—and it certainly works to portray Coffins as an unwavering force of the Japanese extreme metal underground (which is probably what the band wants to achieve).
Drummer Satoshi’s playing style also manages to sound raw and organic, as his beats sound airy and unpolished; this can be heard clearly in the percussive introductions of “Hellbringer” and “The Colossal Hole”. And by the way, “The Colossal Hole” does sound like what it sounds like: a huge, muddy sonic hole that sucks you in and swallows you whole.
As far as entire songs go, there isn’t any particular one that stands out, since every single one of them induces some headbanging. Just keep both ears out for the lumbering riffs in every song that eventually speed up and evolve into hard-driving grooves; these are musical moments to cave in your forehead for.
All in all, The Fleshland is a satisfying trip into the maw of a beast that chews you up and spits your cracked bones out with only shreds of flesh left clinging onto them. It ain’t no album-of-the-year material, but it will definitely provide great sonic company on the morning train to work for a few days. Okay, maybe a few hours [‘Commuter death’ is an underappreciated genre — Steel Druhm].