The Blind, Torture, Kill murderer Dennis Rader claimed 10 victims between 1974 and 1999 in and around Wichita, Kansas. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley murdered five children whom they buried in Saddleworth Moor between 1963 and 1965 in Greater Manchester, England. Gary Heidnik tortured, raped and murdered six women in his Philadelphia basement before being sentenced and executed via lethal injection in 1999. Dennis Nilsen murdered and engaged in necrophilia with 15 young men that he lured into his home between 1978 and 1983.
All of these people committed atrocious acts that make the skin crawl. Their crimes are monstrous, the impact they’ve had on lives is immeasurable. Yet, serial killers and the dark side of human nature they represent are utterly fascinating. Japan’s Tatsu Mikami, the bassist, lyricist, and bandleader for doom metal quintet Church of Misery, is one such person absorbed by this dichotomy. Since forming the band in 1995, he’s created numerous songs that focus on specific criminals and the crimes they’ve perpetuated.
“First of all, I’m disgusted about typical lyrics by typical stoner bands – ‘smoke weed and get high’ or ‘trip to the unknown galaxy,’” he writes from the land of the rising sun. Given the limitations of language and the limited scope of an email interview, some of his responses are unfortunately short.
“It’s boring to me. In the beginning of Church, I’ve been reading and watching about serial killers. It’s really interesting, the process from normal guy to psychotic killer. It’s a very, very interesting story. I thought that these serial killer topics are very fit to our heavy and doomy music. That is the reason why I choose this topic…. this combination is really strong and brutal.”
Metal has never shied away from controversial lyrical content; it’s what makes the music so polarizing, vicious and engaging. Unlike their equally lyrically brutal acts like Devourment and Cannibal Corpse, Church of Misery performs riff-worshiping doom in the vein of Black Sabbath and Cathedral, albeit with a deeper growl overtop. On their fifth full-length, Thy Kingdom Scum, they sound reinvigorated, thanks to the return of vocalist Hideki Fukasawa and an emphasis on bombastic, dirge swamped grooves.
“This time, we wanted to feature each instrument’s abilities more. For example, [listen to the] free jamming on ‘Düsseldorf Monster (Peter Kurten)’ or [the] end section of ‘Brother Bishop (Gary Heidnik).’ We recorded three or four takes [for] each song,” he writes. “Anyway, I always think [the] most important [element] for rock music is ‘riff’ and ‘groove.’ [The] new album is full of neck-breaking, cool guitar riffs. Worship [the] ‘riff!!'”
Despite his insistence on worshipping riff and groove – two elements that many would argue are recurrent in stoner music – Church of Misery is adamantly against this term. On their 2001 debut Master of Brutality, the declaration, “WE HATE TREND… WE HATE THE WORD “STONER.” DEATH TO FALSE STONERS. LET THERE BE DOOM!!” is emblazoned proudly. They’ve followed this mantra faithfully and are being rewarded accordingly with their first-ever Canadian tour.
“I’m so excited to perform in Canada! Yes, this is first time for us. To tell you the truth, we had a plan to play in your country last U.S. tour. But it did not come true by various problems. This time, finally we can perform our shows in the land of David Cronenberg and Anvil!”
If their 2012 Maryland Death Festival appearance was any indication, the show will heavily emphasize the transformative aspects inherent in jamming, an attribute that transforms Church of Misery from yet another second tier doom act to the preeminent Japanese doom export, alongside their piers in Corrupted and Boris.
“I always think it’s [a] big weapon for us. Other bands just play songs like studio materials on stage, but we [are] always different. Good vibe leads us into next level. ‘Jamming’ – it’s very thrilling.”
He concludes, “Come and enjoy our show! Let there be DOOM!”
UPDATE: Due to the U.S. government shutdown, Church of Misery’s scheduled show date for Friday, Oct. 25 at the Palomino Smokehouse and Social Club has been cancelled. The Palomino show has been re-scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 8.
By Sarah Kitteringham