The Fleshlands is a cacophony of carnage that will mince any genre counterpart into gristle.
I have long sustained the belief that whatever kooky sub-cultural weirdness we can muster into existence here in the severely declined west, Japan can do it about 20 times better. This bias of mine is particularly hard to disprove in one area of the arts, music. Japanese musicians have long dabbled in just about every genre known to man; and in terms of metal, Japan has been no slouch at offering a homegrown answer to anything rippling the musical pond outside of its soil. Even Black Sabbath was given a run for their money in ’71 by their Japanese bizarro twins, Flower Travellin’ Band. The deeper you delve into Japanese metal’s obscure segues, the more bands you will encounter that take cues from their western mentors to recreate those sounds with a homespun approach. Coffins is no exception to this.
Coffins plow through their brutal slow to mid-tempo brand of Death/Doom with grim intensity. They combine the dark, primal minimalism of bands such as Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, and clearly, the sludgy gore-doom of Autopsy. On The Fleshlands however, they focus more on their seemingly religious idolatry for the latter. On this recording, as it seems, a steady diet of Autopsy’s Mental Funeral resulted in a chunky regurgitation during their block of studio time, in its wake leaving a recording that sounds like a mortuary rumbling in on itself. “Cold black storm brings the unholy/Rubble of cathedrals turning into dust”, rumbles the throat of vocalist Uchino on album standout “The Colossal Hole”. In two stanzas, I think he has just about encapsulated the gist of their sound. Malevolent winds laying ruins to waste? Yep, that sounds about right!
On their Relapse debut, the band has delivered a solid, well-written piece of work for their new bosses. Nothing fanciful here though, there isn’t one single riff that can stand to be trimmed down, no high-flying solos nor math-timing used as window dressing. In true Japanese fashion, Coffins wants to be practical about smashing your skull open. They get to the point precisely, efficiently. Any genre colleagues (and label-mates alike) who stand within bleeding earshot of this record will be committing seppuku with rusty surgical equipment.
Tracks like the aforementioned “The Colossal Hole” and “The Vacant Pale Vessel” hit in the center of the chest in their moribund time signatures with such sheer brutality that I could not imagine another reaction from label president Matthew Jacobson other than some kind of bloody projectile orgasm when he heard the master tape.
Lyrically speaking, it’s safe to say that these guys aren’t jotting down haikus about caterpillars or fallen cherry blossoms. Expect the standard fare of blood, brains, guts and evil. Too harsh? It is, after all, called “death metal” for a reason. Much to their credit, the stoic Japanese have a way with turning a phrase, so whether for shock value or not, the lyrics here are well-written. The obviously fictional subject matter is written as such for the sake of motif strictly, but packs a vomit-inducing punch that would’ve had Tipper Gore and her Yenta-squad foaming at the mouths back in the heyday of the PMRC.
The Fleshlands is the perfect record for anyone who likes their death/doom unadulterated. It is a record that was stripped down for max potency, almost as if the studio reels had been cooked in a Pyrex beaker with water and baking soda, producing an off-white crust of metal to smoke up scene-fiends’ ears. The fact that it’s a Japanese band who’s serving it up, well, that just makes this record all the more novel. A spike in the record sales of their previous material is imminent after this release. I predict a feeding frenzy of death-heads hording copies of Sacrifice to Evil Spirit. Just grab the yen and run, boys…just grab the yen and run…