20 Buck Spin
4/7/2009 - Review by: Etiam
Being the top-seller of a label--the boutique 20 Buck Spin in this instance--tends to confer a cult status on a band that is not always merited. Japan's Coffins, with only a few LPs to their name and none from before 2005, does owe some of their revered status to that distinction, but are still plenty good in their own right. Their third LP, 'Buried Death', is the perfect embodiment of Japan's extreme scene: macabre, rough-hewn, and built upon Western tradition without absolutely mimicking them. After existing in a few states since their mid-90s inception, Coffins now legitimately lay claim to the "death/doom" distinction--a fusion that sounds brilliant in theory but deceptively difficult to execute in any meaningful way.
But Coffins have done exactly that on 'Buried Death', a 44 minute, eight track time capsule to the early 90s that sounds like Entombed's 'But Life Goes On' demo tape played at 1/2 speed. Uchino's vocals are guttural, utterly indecipherable, and are grunted out with a fairly loose relation to the riffing structures. While Uchino certainly does contribute to Coffins' primal edge, if his vocals were removed from the Coffins equation, the band would not be too severely diminished; on 'Buried Death', as with the previous two albums, Coffins' paramount concern is riffing. These are not epochal themes like in Candlemass, though, nor the sweeping strophes of old Katatonia. Double-tracked by Uchino, Coffins' guitars are (way) down-tuned weapons of blunt force trauma, with riffs that plod stolidly around root position, rarely venturing far above the lowest open note. Always simple and sometimes catchy, they also feature enough rhythmic quirks (e.g. 'Under the Stench' cadencing a beat earlier than expected) to differentiate the songs and hint at the cunning behind these brutish compositions. Even the solos--fairly basic minor pentatonics to whammy bar histrionics--are subordinate to the almighty chug.
Altogether, it is an exercise in fuzz saturation and speaker-damaging overdrive, where the bass and guitar essentially meld into a single tone. Throughout the album, You's drumming is a grab-bag of D-beat, straightforward snare/hi-hat splashing, and protracted tom fills; anything more complex would be quite out of place in this setting. 'Deadly Sinners' is brutal enough to balance out the (admittedly entertaining) travesty of the same name perpetrated by 3 Inches of Blood, and also features higher-register, afflicted shrieks that Coffins would do well to use more of in the future (these vocals also appear on 'Cadaver Blood', among others). Uchino even dips a little into drone-style feedback (harmonized, no less) at the beginning of 'Mortification to Ruin', the album's most crushing doom track. 'Buried Death' does drag noticeably at its midsection, but given the rudimentary tools in use, a merely minor lull is practically a victory for the band.
In short, Coffins is a bit like barbecue--slow, low, unpretentious, and almost assuredly aroused by the thought of charred, skewered flesh. That this isn't a particularly fresh cut is of no concern to the band, nor the sort of fans who will appreciate it. 'Buried Death' is precisely what it intends to be--rotten and ripe for devouring.
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