Part way through writing this review I got pulled into a twitter thread about how good this album is. For a few contributors it was an early contender for album of the year. I’m not sure I can comment on that but what stuck out to me was how often the phrase ‘face melting’ came up. The Body have always been a heavy band but it’s with a Ron Swanson level of giggling glee that I’m able to report that ‘face melting’ is a righteously accurate phrase for this release. Chip King and Lee Buford have always wielded their mighty sound with a good grasp of experimentation, nuance and varied textures, and that still holds true on this release but also there feels like a return to something primal, aggressive and in the grittiest way possible, truly epic.
I was once the technician at a youth music talk with the dubstep artist Joker. He was asked about production tips while writing drums. He was a very serious character on stage but had a wry sense of humour that subtly shone through in micro expressions. He said ‘lots of people will tell you to never clip an audio track, but when you’re writing drums it has to be going into the red, that’s how I get my sound, that’s how I get them to sound so good. As long as the drums are going into the red then they’re good.’ Clipping as a tool rather than a mistake is more common than you might think, and not always the realm of noise artists. What The Body have achieved on ‘I’ve Seen All I Need To See’ in regards to creative distortion is pretty next level. Its goose bumps next level. It’s ‘I feel like I’m showering in space matter and needles’ next level.
First track, ‘A Lament’, is a wonderful example of how they’ve simultaneously managed to capture their live intensity while at the same time using the studio and clipping distortion to sculpt the dynamics of what’s happening. They build a world in six minutes and then send it spiralling into the nearest black hole. The track is clipping so hard it sounds like the audio is cutting out, collapsing under its own weight. Huge, distorted toms, (I mean everything is distorted), bash away while Chip King’s trademark vocals screech like blades carving up bloody panic. Eventually at 3:30 the track breaks out and a gorgeously simple transcendental melody floats above the chaos, constantly threatening to be pulled under and submerged. It all feels paradoxically fragile and incredibly powerful, like we are the light in the black hole.
‘Eschatological Imperative’ gives a tangible sense of human power behind the wall of sound. The military drums, the single doomy power chords and the ever-present screech of Chip. It is disgusting and it’s wonderful. You can feel the two musicians pounding their respective instruments. Hurting their bodies. There is a sort of religious ecstasy to the aggression.
‘A Pain of Knowing’ is almost stripped back and minimal in its execution. Like Sunn 0))) or Boris, the thick guitars do most of the work. A fit of screaming, an occasional drum hit pierce the fog, but it is the wall of distortion that coats the soul here. Like Electric Wizard, but rougher, there’s a syrupy purity to such a dense, vicious guitar tone. Lower and lower the tones get as the track moves on – things threaten to fall apart and Chip’s scream gets more intense as though warning us that they might. Eventually the sludge suddenly collapses and extinguishes as though merely a small flame.
The album as a whole seems to move through progressively more harrowing gears. The drums become more straight forward and primal. The City Is Shelled feels like the aural encompassing of the relentless, cold aggression of military force. Incessant pounding side chains against buzzing guitars. In the final third of the track a winding, discordant melody trickles through everything, giving a sense of mischievous chaos. I have been lucky enough to never witness the shelling of a city in real life; I reckon this does as good a job as many films at recreating you how it might feel.
‘They Are Coming’ continues the trend of disintegrating audio mapping some nightmarish descent into an industrial hell. Like William Basinski and Zdzislaw Beksinski collaborating on an art installation. The filter sweeps of feedback being pulled quickly to zero, that punctuates the first power chords, is a truly stunning little nugget of sound design. This album is hard work on headphones, but I really recommend you give it a go for these little moments alone. Chips screams are increasingly inhuman – perhaps embodying the ‘they’ that are coming. Chorus and detuning effects are used subtly but with great effect.
If there is a conceptual narrative to this album, one that I’ve purely projected, then the final two tracks really are a fitting climax to the story. The Handle/The Blade gallops along as though a desperate attempt to flee or fight the awful monstrous ‘They’ that arrived previously. Lee Buford’s drums have more purpose, more roll and anxiety inducing intensity. Barely audible vocal samples weave though the kinetic, percussion-lead barrage. Not for the first time The Body feel like they’re sound tracking a really, really difficult bit of extreme cinema.
Path of Failure feels like the inevitable collapse that has threatened the album throughout its duration. The air around the fuzz sounds like it’s physically moving – the way your clothes will ripple in front of any decent sub. A relatively calm, yet still swampy, chord progression plays over degraded and decaying drums. This does not last long before things fully collapse. The listener is submerged once more into a soupy, foul state of loss. Free form drums rattle around underneath until finally we are given a ray of light…sort of…a ray of light as delivered by The Body. The full force of guitar, drums, voice and distortion eventually return and much to form its heavier than most celestial masses, but there is a hint of hope in the chord progression. A snippet of major key melody that might just be the cruel smile of a killer, but it returns us to the notion of fuzz and clipping as ecstatic, transcendental fervour.
The Body are prolific and varied. Obviously ‘doom’ and ‘industrial’ are at the heart of what they do but they readily collaborate with producers and other bands to give their work multiple dimensions. They can do electronic soundscapes and depressive tone poems. ‘I’ve Seen All I need To See’ still retains that experimental, open minded work ethic but there is also a purity to the songs that harks to The Body’s heavier tendencies. It’s a harrowing and intense balancing act between studio manipulation and human player that provides one of the most overwhelming records I’ve heard in ages. Go get immersed.