"That seemed quiet to me. I dunno, was that loud?" Body guitarist Chip King asked us this earnestly after his band's set last night, worried that one of his bookcase-sized amps wasn't quite pulling its weight, perhaps due to the cold temperature of the Blast-O-Mat garage. As a veteran of both A Place to Bury Strangers and My Bloody Valentine at close range, I can say confidently that oh dear heavens, yes it was. You could feel the air moving throughout most of the Body's thirty minutes of hellfire.
But before the Body set up its three amps of the apocalypse, local duo MjolniirDXP did its best to warm up the chilly Blast-O-Mat space with its noisy, doomy, groove-based improv. There were moments of pure abstraction, but the heavily distorted bass and synths stayed mostly anchored to either real or electronic drums, and the overall effect was kind of like krautrock through a distortion pedal. Very good stuff.
The end of the world is a common trope for metal bands, but the Body's vision of it is more vivid than most. Guitarist/vocalist King and drummer Lee Buford like to pose with their large collection of large guns, they've been known to perform with nooses around their necks, and they released one of the most unsettling -- and best -- doom-metal albums in recent memory with last year's All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood, on which a thirteen-member choir, a wide range of creepy vocal samples and nearly twenty auxiliary instrumentalists augment Buford's crash-heavy drumming and King's Earth-worthy guitar and desperate screaming.
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The slow tempos and walls of down-tuned guitars mark the Body's music as doom, but it could hardly sound less like Black Sabbath; the vibe is closer to that of the death-to-everyone misanthropy of black metal (the sticker I brought home from the show reads: "THE BODY: HATE ALL LIFE") mixed with the artiness for which the band's home base of Providence is known.
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King and Buford couldn't have been expected to bring all of those extra musicians on tour, but they did bring some huge amps -- did I mention the huge amps? -- as well as friend Steven Vallot, who contributed electronic flourishes to the brief pauses in the band's fearsome display of wattage. King didn't even bother to scream into the microphone, and yet somehow he could still be heard. His is a scream that raises hairs, and seeing his tongue fly out of his mouth actually makes it creepier.
All of the weirdness on the fringes of the band's music wouldn't matter if the riffs weren't good, and they are very, very good; while you can't do much more than nod to this kind of music, we all nodded as enthusiastically as we could. Underperforming amp or no, the Body's wall of low frequencies was like a blanket against the cold, and I, for one, wouldn't have minded being wrapped in it a bit longer. Though I might have ended up deaf in the end.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I love me some doom metal, and I think you should go out and buy All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood right now. Random Detail: Buford's kit had some nifty curved toms. And King wore an Electric Light Orchestra shirt. By the Way: Buford and Vallot play some extra-creepy experimental black metal together in a project called Dead Times (not to be confused with a band from Phoenix with the same name).