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The Body & Thou
You, Whom I Have Always Hated Dean Brown , January 12th, 2015 13:12

"Other people write about the bling and the booty. I write about the pus and the gnats. To me, that's beautiful." – Vic Chesnutt

Taking the sentiment behind the above quote from singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt into account, it's easy to see why his powerful track 'Coward' (from his 2009 album At The Cut, released prior to his overdose on Christmas Day of the same year) is a complete fit for collaborators-in-sludge, The Body and Thou, who covered it for their 2014 vinyl-only EP Released From Love. As far as cover songs go, their performance of 'Coward' makes conceptual sense considering the kind of emotionally raw music both bands have released to date. It also heightens the pain implicit in the original: that recognisably stark guitar line piercing amplified chords like a knife through an exposed heart; screams of "I'm a coward!" lingering long after the song has finished.

In addition to the aforementioned EP, which arrived unexpectedly, The Body and Thou shook the collective psyche of underground metal fans the world over with their respective 2014 full-length releases, I Shall Die Here and Heathen. Both albums were met favorably by fans and highly regarded by critics, and arguments could be made that The Body and Thou released their best work last year. While touring together in support of their individual albums, the chemistry between The Body and Thou was explored further, and the result of their creative kinship is heard on their full-length debut, titled You, Whom I Have Always Hated.

Both bands and their label are keen to stress that this is not a split release. Instead, it's a meeting of the twisted minds of two sludge acts currently at the top of their game. The release of You, Whom I Have Always Hated also comes with the first release of their EP in those formats, which spans the first four songs, culminating in the above-mentioned 'Coward' as track four. The preceding three songs are exactly what you would expect of a face-to-face meeting of The Body and Thou: The tongue-tying 'The Wheel Weaves as the Wheel Wills', the slow, dense and noisy 'Manifest Alchemy', and the Burning Witch-isms of 'In Meetings Hearts Beat Closer' are borne of the same deep, wretched chords played through the unmistakably polluted tones we've come to love from these two acts. Thou take more of a lead role for those four songs, however, as their signature low-slung guitars scrape against the ground and release deafening feedback while singer Bryan Funck's acrid scream collides with The Body's Chip King's desperate howl (King constantly sounds like a man engulfed by flames, begging to have his misery quenched).

The previously unreleased songs on You, Whom I Have Always Hated take a slightly more industrial slant; possibly a result of The Body's recent relationship with British dark ambient/drone artist Haxan Cloak for I Shall Die Here. 'Her Strongholds Unvanquishable' marches to the same nihilistic beat as Godflesh; it's tangibly oppressive and shows both bands' strength as co-composers. 'The Devils Of Trust Steal The Soul Of The Free' may be over by the time you read its title aloud, but its violent forward thrust is a welcome addition – unlike the misstep inclusion of the bands' cover of the Nine Inch Nails classic 'Terrible Lie', which by all accounts went down a storm when they performed it together live at Gilead Festival in 2014. On record, though, the song is nothing more than a curiosity, and it makes an interesting yet already fragmented release that more uneven – the effect of its inclusion being in complete contrast with the successful integration of their version of 'Coward'.

While split releases and side projects have always been a part of metal (a showcase of talent – or a lack there of – if nothing else), collaborations have been less prevalent. It seems though that the internet has opened up this as an increasingly viable creative alternative for likeminded musicians, and the results have generally been positive. For instance, two of 2014's best heavy albums came from collaborations – Sunn O))) providing the dark space for Scott Walker's genius, and Full Of Hell's white-hot grind grating up against Merzbow's peerless command of noise. The Body and Thou's collaboration, though at times coalescing into a perfect rumble (See: 'Lurking Free'), with its reverberations capable of rattling chest cavities (See: the pretentiously titled 'Beyond The Realms Of Dreams, That Fleeting Shade Under The Corpus Of Vanity'), lacks the desired cohesion from beginning to end to impart the feeling of a complete album. However, this is understandable, given the fact that some of the songs were recorded at different times and how the songs from the EP have been subsumed here.

At its best, this release highlights the bleak force that these bands can channel and how impactful it is when united as one. While other times, the music sways more into either The Body's artsy, feedback-frazzled creepy-crawl or Thou's more traditional sludge; which is no bad thing, it's just not as interesting as when they form a hive mind intent on making your eardrums explode. Hopefully this will not be the last we hear from the prolific pairing of Thou and The Body, because there's definitely plenty of space in sound to explore this project further.

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