Look, I know – the past few entries in this still-nascent column have taken a pretty hefty detour from what we initially set out to do, which is talk about death metal albums that most people probably aren’t familiar with. Honestly, you can probably expect way more detours like that in the future because we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of all the bizarre, esoteric, decidedly-not-death-metal albums that I’m going to be subjecting you to, but for now you can relax. Seriously, unclench your jaws, loosen those shoulders, and drag those in-progress death threats into the recycle bin. We’re going to talk about some death metal today, and I mean a bonafide all caps DEATH METAL album here from a bonafide all caps DEATH METAL band. We’re talking The Other Side of Blasphemy by motherfuckin’ Coffins, baby. Let’s go.
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But man, Coffins… where to even start? There are bands with extensive discographies, and then there’s Japanese extreme metal bands. If you’ve ever read Frank Herbert’s little-known sci-fi lark Dune, you’ll remember the scene where Paul and Lady Jessica are in the tent shortly after escaping assassination by the Harkonnens and Paul has his first taste of intergalactic prescience, where basically all of human existence past and present is blazing through his consciousness. That’s kind of what it feels like to look at a band like Coffins‘ (or their fellow countrymen in Abigail and Sabbat) Encylopedia Metallum page. If you owned every variant of every split and EP that Coffins has released since their formation, you’d probably have enough vinyl on hand to melt down and fashion a fairly comfortable loveseat with. Knowing where to start with them can be an intimidating undertaking, but that’s why I’m here! I’ll tell you right now: start with their second album, The Other Side of Blasphemy.
Like all of Coffins‘ glorious recorded output, this is not youtube-reaction-core 40-string-guitar death metal. This is no-nonsense, beer drinking, weed smoking, death metal music for people whose sense of timing and rhythm starts and ends with raising your Miller High Life tallboy every time the band brings the stinky riff back. Just look at the lyrical themes that Coffins chooses to dabble in on this album. Opener “Blood and Bone”? Death metal ass-beater about Satan. The title track? Death metal ass-beater about Satan. “Evil Infection”? Unclear, to be perfectly honest, but it’s yet another no-frills death metal ass-beater, and Satan’s probably still in the mix there thematically somewhere.
The album basically never gets any faster than the mid-tempo d-beat that drummer You faithfully rides through most of its runtime, and for good reason: Coffins understands that with death metal, more specifically death-doom, that’s so fixated on the morbid and macabre, establishing the proper vibe is just as important as crafting memorable riffs. Thankfully, on The Other Side of Blasphemy, Coffins provides a bountiful supply of both. Look at a track like “Only Corpse,” which to my ears serves as a shining example of everything that makes Coffins so great. The first sounds out of vocalist/guitarist Uchino’s mouth are a “EURGH,” “OOOAH” and “OUGH,” all in the first thirty seconds. Then the band starts marching at a pace right in the headbanging sweet spot. Uchino begins belching his lyrics in earnest, and while I don’t have them on-hand, a song title like “Only Corpse” promises nothing but excellent death metal subject matter. By the time the band does pick up the space to that aforementioned d-beat, you’ve been hooked for a while.
While the current resurgence of new American death metal bands (my band included) certainly owe a large debt to the greats like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse and Autopsy, I can’t help but hear some undeniable Coffins influence in there as well. The band’s unpretentious approach to death metal and the impressive consistency of their expansive (and still growing!) output is certainly something that I’ve found to be tremendously inspiring when I think about Undeath and what the future holds for us. For all death metal fans, there’s a lot to love about a band like Coffins, and The Other Side of Blasphemy puts it all on display in one festering, whiskey-drenched package.
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