The Coffins Slave, Hells Headbangers (2012)
January 1st, 2012 / October 29th, 2012
Release length: 18:52
Considering it was originally pressed on cassette, it’s almost a given that the album would have a raw analog quality to it. It does, and for the most part it sounds alright. The guitars have a mid-range tuning to them with a nice buzz to the distortions, though can sometimes go a bit higher in pitch with a cleaner sound for various leads. The bass doesn’t make much of an impact, but what lower tone exists does help to make it rather catchy, and keep the faster material a bit grounded. The drums have a decent impact, though the rougher sound doesn’t always help out as much as you would hope. It’s especially obvious on the cymbals. While sounding natural, the levels vary from loud and up close, to somewhat distant and far from appealing. The bass kicks have a nice louder thud that sounds great, and the snares often have a tighter, louder snap. The vocals have a lower volume level that doesn’t quite have the deeper rhasps and gutturals drowned out, but bringing them up a little more in the mix definitely would help to present a stronger bite, or even push the energy that clearly exists.
With a mildly enjoyable audio quality, Black Jesus Saves relies largely on the performances as a whole. The title track, “Black Jesus Saves” grabs your attention after a pretty rough start. The music is catchy, but also utilizes the lower tuning to bring in a good deal of blunt force to the music. The chorus is the most memorable, largely thanks to the lyrics, but also to some of the creepier riffs that tear through and help to establish a dismal, even hopeless environment. It isn’t until “Age of Avarice that you happen upon another solid offering. The faster pace is met with a strong drum performance that seems to throw back to early Thrash influenced Death Metal, and the riffs vary greatly to offer both atmosphere and complexity throughout. There’s a great deal of energy found in the vocals, as well as the rest of the band, which is even felt during the slower moments such as the song’s own introduction.
Things actually kick off with “Cycles of Fear,” a shorter track that ushers in a deeper sound against some simpler Death Metal that carries a bit of a Black Metal influence, and plenty of blast beat passages that erupt after the slower introduction that eats up the first twenty-two seconds. This sounds like it’s meant to be an energetic powerhouse, but the audio simply doesn’t capture it, and there are plenty of areas that just sound overly simple and even amateurish. But, then you have “Doctrine of Denial,” which has a really catchy performance at work. The riffs carry some hooks that are a bit lighter, but cater to an early Thrash two-step that does pick up in strength a little later. Of course, around the two-minute mark it seems like the band reverts back to the chorus to “Black Jesus Saves” for a few moments. It’s another solid track to look into, but just isn’t as intense as either of the first two songs mentioned. “River Bleeds Black” is a slower offering that has a good deal of enthusiasm to it, and a more dominant bass guitar presence, which works to create more of a trance-enducing rhythm in the main verses. The chorus carries the same concept, but the drumming picks up to give it an eerier tone, and a little more complexity that sounds great, though overall ends up cut short, leaving you with the unescapable sensation of a punch out ending to a track that still had plenty of potential.
When Black Jesus Saves was reissued in 2012 onto CD through The Coffins Slave, it was categorized as an EP with new artwork, completely void of the 2010 demo stature it had before. Almost ten months later, Hells Headbangers picked this one up for release on vinyl. There isn’t anything new, just the same recording that came out back in 2010, except with red artwork instead of green, and a very impressing clear red vinyl that just looks stunning. This is the only way you’ll hear it on this format (unless the band reissues it sometime in 2013 or later on vinyl again), and given the raw quality of the music, it’s definitely the clear choice next to the original cassette pressing.
Black Jesus Saves is definitely a mixed bag. Sometimes the music can sound like the band members only recently learned how to write music, leading to dull material with audio levels that somehow sterilize the experience. But, then you get some with a decent amount of energy that hits the listener hard, whether in the main verses, the chorus, or both. Unfortunately, it’s more the first than the latter of the two options. The crisp audio on the CD version definitely doesn’t help things either, as this is meant to be heard on an analog medium. If you have to own this one, either track down the original cassette pressing, or better yet the vinyl edition from Hells Headbangers for the more superb experience that suits the analog sound. But, even then, this is something well worth sampling before ordering, as there are just too many songs, and even just sections of them, that will probably have you losing interest only a few spins in, if even that long…
01. Cycles of Fear – 1:27
02. Black Jesus Saves – 2:11
03. The Devouring – 3:39
04. Dead in Their Tracks – 1:21
05. Doctrine of Denial – 2:40
06. River Bleeds Black – 1:52
07. Age of Avarice – 2:49
08. Atrocity Generator – 2:53
|Initial Pressing Score: 4/10
Hells Headbangers Edition: 4.5/10