Review Summary: Walk away from the light, for it shall burn your flesh.
Where do you even start with an entity like The Body? I hesitate to call the duo a "band" because the sheer variance of musical elements in their output, to the point that "composers" feels a bit more accurate, if kinda pretentious. Calling them "metal" barely works, despite starting off as a sludge outfit and doing splits with some goddamn intense metal bands, thanks to how much they've branched out over the last few albums. It's kind of a nice way of approaching things. Do a more metal-y album with Full of Hell or Krieg, then go balls-out with the weird on a solo album. Everybody's happy.
Wait, did I say happy? I mean the opposite of that.
The Body, for those unfamiliar, is sort of like what would happen if Boris was a whole damn lot more nihilistic. They flit haphazardly between genres, playing with metal, electronic, and even pop influences (or "gross pop" as they called it), never content to sit in one place. They also might win the ever-lengthening battle in metal for Most Artsy-Fartsy Song and Album Titles. The most important thing about a The Body album to remember, though, is that there's no way to anticipate what you're in for, except that it's going to incredibly bleak.
I Have Fought... kicks off with a morose, slow opener that has some guest vocals from Chrissy Wolpert of Assembly of Light Choir. More clean female vocals stick around for the next track, and odd piece with more electronic drums rolling beneath a wall of bass tones and static featuring Chip King's well known tortured screams before we even get a hint of metal on the third track. Even that's more hints of industrial metal as synths and programmed drums fly from left speaker to right speaker with the occasional blast of distortion. Don't expect riffs, blast beats, or grooves. That's not how The Body rolls. Expect stifling walls of overdriven guitars, stomping drums, and howling shrieks buried and treated in the mix to the point that it's hard to believe a human being made them.
I've seen I Have Fought... described as a "soundtrack" elsewhere, and I agree. These songs, typical of The Body (and the only situation in which the word "typical" gets anywhere in the same area code of The Body), aren't structured in any standard way, gradually morphing as they seep along the ground rather than having an intro/verse/chorus/etc construction. This is less music to be played for a crowd of fans and more something that deserves to be played for atmosphere during some dystopian nightmare.
A major highlight of this album is the presence of Kristin Hayter of Lingua Ignota, itself a downright harrowing musical project. Her vocals ricochet between ethereal singing and throaty screams with such power in both instances that mix so beautifully with the music that I am not kidding when I say I'd love for her to be a permanent fixture. If you haven't heard Lingua Ignota, pull her up on BandCamp. Very much worth it.
As time goes, it does seem that The Body's electronic influences become more prominent, but this isn't a bad thing. Maybe we can take that earlier analogy and say if Boris had sex with Godflesh and gave birth in a tar pit, you'd get The Body. The tempos are slow and laborious, drowning in overdrive and static, with thick and often murky production that seems hell-bent on suffocating the listener. Instruments layer atop one another, bleeding in and over each other like a wild stampede. It leads to a pretty exhausting listen, one you've gotta commit to because otherwise you'll feel like you need to take a break about 4 songs in.
If I have to pick some nits, and I suppose I should, one is that Chip's screams really are an acquired taste. I'm a fan, but they're so melodramatic I could imagine many listeners being turned off by them. They're used pretty sparingly in this case, and generally mixed pretty far back with a nice coating of glitch over them so make them more atmosphere than prominent feature, but still. Additionally, The Body does their unfortunately habitual issue of taking the darkness just a bit far and the closing track feels like it doesn't really need to be there. The long spoken word section isn't especially well acted, and although it has kind of a nice thing going, sitting through the whole thing is a chore in a decidedly less rewarding way than the tracks previous.
On the reverse, "Blessed, Alone" is superb, displaying the juxtaposition of vicious and delicate incredibly well. After a brief wave of distortion, we get more soft female singing and a piano with strings... but then something dark begins. The distortion is back. There's something wrong in the background. The drums erupt, the screaming starts. It all builds up to a glorious cacophony that's simultaneously hideous and beautiful.
I Have Fought... is, as I've said, not an easy listen. It's not a long album, just under the 50 minute mark, but the sheer intensity of its misanthropy combined with the total disregard for conventional song structure means that the usual avenues of respite are absent. Even the soft portions feel less like moments to relax and more like holding your breath while waiting for the next salvo. It's another entry in The Body's unbelievable catalogue, and one well worth taking the time for.