It has been a joy to watch decidedly un-joyous avant metal duo The Body grow and evolve over the years. From their early days based in Providence, rattling the foundations of countless basement venues, to their current status as Portland residents, playing local venues such as the 933-capacity Paradise Rock Club on a recent tour with Neurosis.
In that time period, they’ve expanded their hellishly loud, sludgy palate to incorporate choirs, strings, and electronic noise without losing any of their punishing gloominess. Their studio experimentalism is compounded even more when you factor in records they’ve released collaboratively, with artists from fellow sludge luminaries Thou to grind freaks Full of Hell to the one-man black metal project Krieg.
My personal favorite of the band’s collaborations, however, was the album recorded with dark electronic mastermind The Haxan Cloak and released by dance music label RVNG, Intl. The melding of the Body’s two-man aural attack with the Haxan Cloak’s foreboding electronics was a great combo. It is that album, in my mind, to which their new No One Deserves Happiness is the spiritual successor.
On No One Deserves Happiness, 808s snap, synth bass slithers, and hints of modern hip-hop and ’80s synth pop permeate. Cello, horns, and ethereal female vocals give an additional depth to the proceedings. In interviews and promotional materials, names like Young Thug, Beyonce, and Depeche Mode have been cited as influences. However, this is still The Body, so blood-curdling screams, disgusting guitar noise, and a deeply negative emotional outlook still dominate.
The album was recorded back in Rhode Island at Machines with Magnets, and the New England connections run even deeper thanks to vocal contrinutions from Maralie Armstrong of the great Humanbeast, as well as Chrissy Wolpert from Assembly of Light Choir. Armstrong in particular really helps to shape two of the record’s best tracks: the almost-danceable “Shelter is Illusory” and the deeply gothic “Adamah”.
The Body’s fearless stylistic advancements continue to earn them a place near the top of the extreme music heap, and the two show very few signs of slowing down. The promise of a collaboration with apocalyptic dub/grime genius The Bug shows us that Chip and Lee are not yet finished exploring the nexus of dance music and heavy metal, while European tour dates with fellow New England metal lifers Converge remind us that they still appreciate where they came from. But as always, it’s where they’re heading next that is truly fascinating.
No One Deserves Happiness is available now from Thrill Jockey. The Body will play locally at O’Brien’s Pub on May 29th.