Chrch - Light Will Consume Us All - (8/10)
Published on August 5, 2018
At the point where sludge metal and post rock intersect, you would expect to find something ugly yet holy and that’s exactly what happens with Chrch’s spellcheck-angering brand of vitriol and divinity. Having already mentioned the two genres, one will probably conclude that a sluggish, repetitive, and atmospheric listen awaits on Light Will Consume Us All and that is absolutely the case, three songs sprawling out over 45 minutes of alternately widescreen and intimate music. While sludge is on the one hand a genre that revels in sonic murk and swampy heaviness, the larger part of the aptly-titled opener “Infinite Return” (just “Infinite” on some sources) consists of sparse clean guitar and ends in meandering leads that play well with the notion that heaviness should be used to oppress and lighter sounds to free up the experience.
As with most Chrch services, it takes a little while to get going, five minutes of low intensity giving way to the howling and screaming of Eva Rose, who acts as the preacher for the group and is capable of both feral utterances and ethereal croons, as though enumerating the perils of an infernal afterlife and then soothing the flock back into calm slumber. Occasionally, guitarist Chris Lemos adds his own voice to give a different element, broadening the sound ever more with three voices to choose from. The second sermon, namely “Portals”, makes use of all these options and is thus a more lively exposition of ringing doom struggling against screams and dream pop vocals, seeming to travel much further than the opener and ending up as something akin to Enya and Gollum double-teaming the mic while being backed by Crowbar playing My Dying Bride’s riffs, though the introduction of spacey lead guitar playing at the close adds Hawkwind to the supergroup. The final song is comparably shorter, clocking in at under 10 minutes; it supplies the most concentrated bout of aggression towards its end, as steady blastbeats add pace and intensity to an otherwise leisurely release.
Talking specifics about each song might not be the best way to understand Light Will Consume Us All, since the album works more as an complete entity and fails not in gathering the listener up to be taken on the band’s journey. That journey takes two possible forms: one is the common post rock/atmospheric metal endpoint, which is a kind of sleepy introspection that doesn’t require much actual detail to be provided by the music, just for its regular waves and emotional ballast to support the reverie; the second kind of journey is the far more physical one taken by means of real immersion in the music, which sees the listener smacked about between clean and heavy playing, tortured and blissed out vocals, and stifling riffing and spacious melody. This second approach provides a vaster playground, especially since the album is structured backwards according to typical standards. The songs decrease in length and build up in intensity and musical complexity so that the listener is dragged further and further into the experience, rather than exiting by degrees as more atmospheric elements come to the fore, as is usually the case.
While these features of Chrch’s second full-length are undeniably marks of quality, there is also the testing question of whether this kind of music is stretching enough for the listener. Long, slow songs that tend towards atmospheric destinations can only maintain so much interest, particularly if the ears beholding the music are not endeared to the style. For Light Will Consume Us All, the songs do seem rather barren of content for their length, but honing in on Adam Jennings’ contribution to the churning mid-section of “Portals”, the sticksman’s fills and endless variety add depths to the mournful riffs and can sustain the listener even when the rest of the song seems in stasis. It is largely the drummer’s responsibility to fulfill this aspect of the sound, though when lead guitar enters the effect is much the same. Conversely, the clean mid-section of “Infinite Return” attracts attention from its tranquil yet pressured atmosphere even if it lasts probably too long.
There’s no knowing exactly how different listeners will react to Light Will Consume Us All, since the album takes the risk of being at once wondrous and large as well as filthy and crushing, so not all fans will delight in the entire experience. However, this album is definitely a journey whichever way you look at it, and one which could lead you light years away in just a few minutes. When the sonic scope is this large, being consumed is a mostly pleasurable experience.