Spin - "[W]e still get the sense that as the urgency of 'Hallow/Hollow' works up to a fever pitch, this album, like everything the band has done, is designed to break us now only for us to thank them later."
Personnel: Maralie Armstrong (vocals); Alex Barton (guitar); Laura Cetilia (cello); Daniel Blacksberg (trombone); Keith Souza (keyboards, drums); Seth Manchester (drums, programming).
Recording information: Machines With Magnets, Pawtucket, RI; Nada Sound Studio.
Portland, Oregon-based duo the Body (Chip King and Lee Buford) have been continually pushing the boundaries of metal since their inception in the late '90s. On albums such as 2013's Christs, Redeemers, they've added strings, horns, and angelic choirs to their punishing mix of sludgy guitar noise, brutally slow tempos, and shrieking vocals, which sound like a rooster being electrocuted. For their 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness, their goal was to create "the grossest pop album of all time." Depending on one's attitude toward the mainstream, pop music might already be pretty gross, but here the group successfully integrates more accessible elements into its music while still sounding harsh, threatening, ugly, and utterly bizarre. On this album, they incorporate faster tempos and experiment with hip-hop and even disco rhythms -- seriously! -- and while that sounds like it could be a recipe for disaster, they manage to make it work. "Shelter Is Illusory" debuts the Body's dance-influenced sound with steady, pounding drums and ticking electronic hi-hats amidst hissing feedback noise and howling vocals. They seem to have a blast distorting the hell out of a Roland TB-808 on tracks like "Two Snakes," which contorts the snares so that they sound like gunshot blasts, ending up resembling a mutated version of trap music. Lest one start grooving out too hard, though, there's the punishing industrial thrash of "For You," which drowns grubby, flailing drums and growled vocals in harsh noise, leaving no room for breathing. On some of these tracks, the guitars sound more like an electrified buzz buried in the mix rather than their usual heavy, sludging riffage. As far as the Body's pop ambitions, the stunning "Adamah" features soaring vocals by frequent collaborator Maralie Armstrong (who co-wrote the song), and the song fits nicely alongside artists like Zola Jesus in the 2010s darkwave goth-pop canon. Providence's Assembly of Light Choir (founded by Chrissy Wolpert and including Armstrong) contribute to the album more so than on previous the Body recordings, and they contribute a crucial touch of serenity and sanity to the nightmarish doomscapes. Even with the album's graceful inclinations, it still sounds as bleak its title, but the way the Body combine disparate components into their brand of mutilated "gross pop" is truly fascinating. ~ Paul Simpson