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Cough - "Ritual Abuse" (CD)

Cough - "Ritual Abuse" CD cover image

"Ritual Abuse" track listing:

1. Mind Collapse
2. A Year in Suffering
3. Crippled Wizard
4. Crooked Spine
5. Ritual Abuse

Reviewed by on November 25, 2010

"It is the kind of music that resounds well late at night in the dark recesses of one's addled mind."

As I listen to the new five song L.P. by Richmond, Va. ensemble Cough, I was expecting to hear some classically styled doom metal. Instead, what I got was something that sounds like the soundtrack to a nervous breakdown. They completely went for all out mind-altering dysfunction with their new one, "Ritual Abuse."

Starting off this descent into audio hell is a twelve minute slab of leads and rhythm slower than a crawl titled "Mind Collapse." This song reminds me a lot of the tortured mind frame and music of Eyehategod in the way Dave Cisco's blood-curdling screams are interspersed with simpler plaintive retro vocals. His singing continues like this on the other songs, droning on in agonizing screams for a while and then resurfacing in a more human form. The title track is another long epic tune, showing more of the same slow-mo doom riffs that plod on forever. It adds even more psychedelic sound effects at its nadir, leading to some inevitable comparisons to Electric Wizard in their heyday. I can see the analogies in some respects, but Cough's sound is largely more disturbed and chaotic.

"Crippled Wizard" comes across with a clear and steady beat, good guitar fretwork imbuing the song as it builds into a decent ending. The whole theme of "Ritual Abuse" resounds in misery, "Crooked Spine" adding another level of abjectness to it. The vocals rise above the lumbering pace and come at you in a tripped-out echoing wall of psychedelia that is mind warping. That is the one really good aspect of the songs - they take on an evil personification through all the ambient sound effects.

However, the Achilles heel of "Ritual Abuse" is that all the songs tend to follow the same theme and blend together in ambiguity. Each track could use its own indelible print, as there is a lack of distinction. Take "A Year in Suffering;" it trudges along for a couple of minutes, takes the standard vocal reprieve, then plods along at the exact same rhythm. Maybe that's the point of it and I am missing it, but even a stoner that's seriously lit needs more variety.

In small doses, "Ritual Abuse" is a decent sludge doom metal outing for Cough. It is the kind of music that resounds well late at night in the dark recesses of one's addled mind. It would be far more accessible if they would just change up the standard formula to the songs a bit more.

Highs: Dissonant screaming dementia coupled with psychedelia

Lows: Tends to sound homogenous after awhile.

Bottom line: Mood music for those into stoner doom metal

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)