The Fleshland: Coffins’ Frankenstein Monster of an Album

  • Sammy O'Hagar

The hype (loud as the audience at a Texas abortion bill filibuster) that surrounds Coffins doesn’t do the band any favors. There isn’t a whole lot to them: riffs, the Cookie Monster-est of Cookie Monster vocals, more riffs, positively decrepit production (well, for death metal, anyway), and more riffs. Have you heard Severed Survival or Mental Funeral? Coffins have many, many times. They’re meat and potatoes death/doom, except probably without the potatoes. That being said, their absolutely-no-frills approach is essential to what’s best about them: most Coffins songs are among the finest death/doom you’ll ever hear with nary more than the basics of the genre necessary. The Fleshland continues this trend. At its best, it’s stunning how much they mine from what’s seemingly so little. Coffins are either made up of idiot savants who have a once-in-a-generation gift for writing sludgy death metal, or are really fucking good at this.

Fleshland’s opener “Here Comes Perdition” is a solid indicator of most of what comes after it: an ominous doom groove trudges into a delightfully punky death ‘n’ roll riff that clears aside the brush for Ryo’s sepulchral gurgling. There’s a woozy solo a few minutes in, after which the song gets taken back to its origin. Though none of this displays songwriting skill that rises much farther above “basic,” when Coffins are on, they know how to wring exactly as much as possible from an A-grade riff. “Hellbringer,” the next song, follows a similar pattern: the central idea gets poked and prodded enough so it doesn’t get too charred, but ultimately, the band don’t mess with it unless they have to. They make the little shifts in tonality and tempo sound revelatory.

Coffins’ attention to songwriting is what’s made them such a great split/EP band. The downside to that trips them up on a full-length, though. Fleshland sounds like a collection of grimy death/doom songs, not a predetermined album. So when a plodding clunker like “The Colossal Hole” comes along, you get hurled out of the flow of the record, and it’s hard to wade back to pick up where you left off. But that only makes The Fleshland tough to take down as a whole; the majority of the songs therein are phenomenal. “Dishuman” deconstructs death metal’s reliance on chromatic riffs then haphazardly sews it back together and slaps it over a d-beat, leaving the spongy flesh very exposed. And for a band this raw and unsanitary, it’s hard to believe that something like “Rotten Disciples” or “The Unhallowed Tide” come off sounding as anthemic as they do. Though they’re loosely connected to a genre known for meticulous perfection and inhuman technicality (hell, even in the bands I love), Coffins are death metal that’ll give you a staph infection. But there’s a ton to be found in the emphysemaic lung rattling of their amps. This isn’t a dead animal drawing flies in the street; this is a maggoty carcass served to you on a platter. The Fleshland may not add up to more than the sum of its parts, but most of those parts are worth reexamining several times over.

Coffins’ The Fleshland comes out July 9 on Roadrunner. Stream the track “The Unhallowed Tide” here and pre-order the album here.

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