“The Infinite Snake Anata that surroundeth the Universe is but the Coffin-Worm!”
– Aleister Crowley
After four rings, the voice that answers the Skype call is thickly laden with an accent that is hard to identify. “It’s BeatRoute,” is the response to the only question that is easy to understand. Suddenly, the off kilter southern drawl is dropped.
“Oh hey, what’s up? Yeah this is Dave. Whenever I get a phone call and I don’t recognize the number I always answer in a weird voice.”
Pleasantries are exchanged. Dave Britts, the man in the quintet that is Coffinworm who provides “Vokills & Death Calls,” seems agitated. His idiosyncrasies spew through the line. It’s slightly unnerving, but befitting his band’s disturbing music. In short, Coffinworm makes dense extreme metal that flirts with the lyrical parameters of the occult, in particular the demon Choronzon, identified by Edward Kelley and John Dee, and brought to life by Aleister Crowley. For Britts and his band mates, who go by one-letter acronyms, this fits because it draws from their interests without forcing them into neat parameters, complete with boundaries and rules.
“We were five dudes that wanted to play music with each other, and we wanted to play a style of music that we felt was not available,” he explains. “An amalgam of death metal, doom metal, black metal, grind, punk, whatever the fuck rubric you want to label it under.”
After jamming for two years, the Indianapolis-based pals sent their 2009, three-track, Great Bringer of Night demo to Profound Lore Records, wondering if they’d be interested in distributing it through a mail order. Instead, they offered the band a contract. Their debut full-length was 2010’s When All Became None. The record is a desolate swamp, slow and filthy with murky production, trudging riffs, discordant leads, powerful percussion and tortured howls. Four years later, they are priming to unveil its follow up, IV.I.VIII. Adorned by artwork from Chicago’s Scott Shellhamer (who also did artwork for local acts Mares of Thrace and The Weir), it loosely features what is commonly known as the Ouroboros, a tail-devouring snake that holds symbolic power.
“It’s loosely the Ouroboros, and the great circle Anata, which Crowley identified,” Dave elaborates. “It’s the great circle that encircles us all. And the Choronzon is the Coffinworm, meaning it is the idle watcher that both speaketh and destroyeth the world.”
The music contained within is suffocating, though it sees an increase in the band’s trudging speed. Unlike its predecessor, the drums are no longer buried in the mix. In short, it’s a logical continuation, and improvement, of their sound.
“We wanted to do the first LP justice, but we knew that we couldn’t do it again. C. switched from drums to guitar, then we got a drummer, J., who did the artwork for When All Became None. It became clear the alchemy had switched, so our main point with the second record was to do a Coffinworm record again… that didn’t alienate the people who liked the first record.” He continues, now comparing Coffinworm’s trajectory as the opposite of Swedish act, Entombed.
“We didn’t put out a Wolverine Blues (1993). We put out a Left Hand Path (1990) as our second record. The five us feel like our second record, if someone wants to look at the first record as better, that’s your opinion… We pushed ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, viscerally, in every way possible to make sure our second record was as uncompromising, unflinching, and punishing as it possibly could be.”
With intensely personal lyrical topics – that Britts does NOT want to discuss, so don’t ask – that are wrapped up in occult imagery and references, IV.I.VIII is a furious statement. Enjoy it at your eardrums’ peril.
Buy IV.I.VIII on Tuesday, March 18 from Profound Lore Records.
By Sarah Kitteringham