I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer.
- From the suicide note of Virginia Woolf
When that is the source material for the name of your album, you better believe you’re about to take a downward journey into despair and misery. And boy, does Oregon/Rhode Island’s The Body deliver it by the truckload on I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer.
Once again stretching the very definition of music, The Body have composed a mercilessly punishing record that oozes pain at every turn, a wonderfully rewarding record for those willing to plunge to the emotional depths to which the album can take you.
My first introduction to the body was back in early 2017 when they were opening for Alcest in what was likely the most mismatched band pairing to tour together. Without knowing a thing about the band, they took the stage at Irving Plaza that night and put on hands-down the most mesmerizing live performance I’ve ever seen. Whether or not people in the crowd enjoyed The Body (and for most of metal fans, that would be “not”), the audience was enthralled by the hellish display the band put on. With the deafening percussion played out via drum machine by Lee Buford and the guitars and most bat-shit insane vocals I’ve witnessed to this day from Chip King, The Body live is less a concert and more a performance art piece.
I spent days digesting the performance, trying to figure out for myself whether I even liked their music. After all, I’m not exactly huge on programmed drums, the music has a heavy electronic influence (not my cup of tea), and, as I discovered today, Chip King’s vocals sound an awful lot like the squeaky wheel on my Roomba. Whatever The Body’s core audience is, it’s not a huge subsection of metal. But eventually I decided that whether I enjoyed their music in a traditional sense or not, I was fascinated by their work and needed to explore further. Through both their solo efforts and their two phenomenal (and I truly mean fucking PHENOMENAL) collaborative efforts with Full of Hell, I unearthed one of the most unique bands in metal.
People who don’t dig The Body tend to say that it barely qualifies as music. And you know what? They’re kinda right. Nobody is dancing to The Body. Nobody is putting on one of their records and headbanging along in the car. Where most bands look to create some sort of melody, or groove, or refrain that the listener can latch on to and relate with, The Body seem content creating the most menacing, horrific atmospheres achievable through music. Their work serves as a soundtrack to the dark, the evil, and, on I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer, the tragic in the world today. I mean, you don’t have to look any further than their album names to know that you’re not gonna be in for sunshine and roses with these guys:
- All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood
- I Shall Die Here
- No One Deserves Happiness
- One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache
On I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer, the band seems to have taken the source material for the album name to heart, wallowing in pain and misery throughout the 10-track record. Even with spots of rap, reggae, and full on electronica mixed in with their tried and true experimental sludge/doom backbone, this album carries an inescapable weight on every track, every upbeat and high note counteracted with devastating emotional and musical heaviness.
While The Body commonly uses guest vocalists (I’ve grown to love Chip King’s squawk, but it can grow a bit tiring over the course of an entire record), King takes a back seat on most of the record, passing off the majority of the duties to the collection of Chrissy Wolpert (Assembly of Light Choir), Ben Eberle (Sandworm), Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota) and Michael Berdan (Uniform), letting them take center stage while he peppers in his patented shrieks from the background. This works incredibly well on this album, and I wonder if the band has taken note of how well their sound has mixed in with darker, more aggressive vocals on their joint efforts with Full of Hell. While I enjoy their solo work, The Body’s finest work has been on their collaborative efforts with FOH, where their churning, bass-heavy industrial sound creates a devastatingly awesome juxtaposition with Full of Hell’s grinding screams. It’s a sound that King’s voice, as heavy and unique as it is, just can’t quite match. On songs like “Off Script” and “Nothing Stirs”, the tracks reach their peak when the guest vocalists unleash their heaviest growls (not that I think King isn’t capable of this, but stylistically it isn’t possible if he is going to continue tracking his vocals by standing 3 feet from the microphone and yelling at the top of his lungs).
Of course, King does step to the forefront on a few songs, and he does so quite well. “The West Has Failed”, my personal favorite track off the album, features an upbeat drum line that sounds like equal parts hip-hop and reggae flowing smoothly under King’s pained shouts to create a sound unlike any other in metal. “An Urn” starts off with crackling feedback (I’ve got to imagine, thanks to the song title, designed create the feeling of being burned alive) before heading into yet another shockingly upbeat drum part. But in comes King again, ready to bring desolation and misery in heaping spoonfuls on every cry he lets loose.
While there really are no weak tracks on the album, it really kicks into gear after “Nothing Stirs”, which was surprisingly the first single released. While it’s not a bad track by any means, each of the five tracks that follow it take the grief and heartache to another level. “Blessed Alone” brings dueling female vocals (one clean, one heavy to a Full of Hell extent) into play over a somber piano and drum line, leading to one of the most emotionally heavy listens on the album. “Sickly Heart of Sand” is a little more up-tempo, with a twangy main guitar part and percussion more reminiscent of a hip-hop DJ spinning while high on mescaline, but it devolves into madness once the screamed refrain of the album title comes into play.
The album closer, “Ten Times a Day, Every Day, A Stranger”, brings the album to a crushing conclusion. Less a song and more of a spoken word poem, the lyrics are taken from Bohumil Hrabal’s Total Fears: Selected Letters to Dubenka, and are, if I’m not mistaken, probably the single most depressing thing ever put to record. It is a fittingly bleak ending to an album so wrought with despair an misery. It is, in a sense, perfect.
Somewhere along the way people have come to understand the definition of art as being something that serves no purpose other than its own existence. No functionality, no purpose, no reason for being other than to exist. I see a lot of music called “art” nowadays, and most of it is horseshit. Music is music. It exists to make people dance, or make people sing along, or even to create a shared emotional connection between people. The Body exist well outside of that realm. Their music, in some ways, is useless. You can’t dance, or sing along, or mosh along with it. I’ve seen firsthand that the actual audience response to this band is wide-eyed bewilderment with a healthy dose of confusion thrown in. But what they achieve on I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer is breathtaking. This album is an amazing achievement because it is so full of sadness and anguish that, for most people, it will be unlistenable. Sounds like art to me, right?
“The West Has Failed”, “Off Script”, “An Urn”