Review Summary: Church of Misery is an underrated Metal band and this is their quintessential recording.
While "Master of Brutality" is most certainly a Doom Metal record, I don't think calling it just that does it justice. Here, crushing heaviness and extremely slow tempos isn't really the point. Instead, like Black Sabbath circa Master of Reality and Vol. 4 and Electric Wizard before them, Church of Misery likes to boogie and has a clear alliance to old-school blues rock bands like Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Tatsu Mikami's bass is high in the mix and tends to do its own thing rather than simply providing the riffs with a bottom. As a bassist, that's something I really appreciate. Junji Narita's drumming is similar. Listen closely to hear how often he sneaks fills into the songs' beats. It's great when a drummer understands subtlety. Of course, I can't just not mention the guitarist, Tomohiro Nishmura. His riffing is of course heavy and somewhat bluesy, but always propulsive and never tedious. When he breaks into a solo (which is often), expect a blues-rooted but thoroughly effed up thing of monstrous beauty that sounds like it could go off the rails at any moment. If you like the lead guitar stylings of Blue Cheer's Leigh Stephens, then you'll probably dig Tomohiro. You likely won't find yourself waiting impatiently for a song to end, no matter how long it is.
Then of course there's the band's frontman, Yoshiaki Negishi. He sounds like a more ferocious version of Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead. Considering that Lemmy himself is ferocious, this is a strong statement. Yoshiaki doesn't throw himself into a performance so much as he lunges at it like a rabid wolverine. You can understand maybe half the lyrics, but oftentimes he mutilates his words with his demented shrieks and furious roars so badly that they're incoherent. This, of course, is awesome. Each original song is inspired by a different serial killer (all their albums are like this--it's kind of their thing). Even the instrumental "Green River" is probably a reference to Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer. This album's roster, including the reissue's bonus tracks, consists of:
- Ed Kemper, who murdered several hitchhikers in California and removed their heads and kept them as masturbation aids.
- The psychotically misogynistic Peter Sutcliffe a.k.a The Yorkshire Ripper.
- The delusional Herbert Mullin, who murdered people because he believed it would prevent a massive California earthquake. "Megalomania" (the title referring to his peculiar belief that he was some sort of prophet of God) is one of the faster songs here.
- John Wayne Gacy, "The Killer Clown", who was found with a few dozen decomposing bodies in the crawlspace under his home's floor in Illinois.
- Albert de Salvo, who confessed to being the Boston Strangler and was later stabbed to death in prison. 'His' song has one of COM's mellower moments, in which a lyrical, almost jazzy guitar solo comes out of left field toward the song's end.
- Dean Corll, a.k.a The Candy Man, who raped and tortured an unknown number of young men in Houston. He was shot dead by one of his accomplices before he was captured. There's an alternate version of this song on the "The Second Coming" album.
There's also an awesome cover of "Cities on Flame" by fellow horror enthusiasts Blue Oyster Cult. It's a fitting choice for a cover, although Church of Misery prefers nonfiction horror stories. The album ends with a live performance of the song "Lucifer Rising". It's 17 minutes long and is probably capable of setting the human brain on fire. Church Of Misery would go on to create 3 more massive albums. Master Of Brutality remains a brutal and monstrous debut.