They say time heals all wounds. In the case of Richmond quartet Cough, time appears to have become the catalyst that feeds their demons and fuels their fire. Their experiences over the past decade have helped shape the band’s sound into the unequivocally monstrous, down-tuned behemoth that has finally returned with Still They Pray to unleash another lesson in torment upon the world.
Following the raw, weighty dose of scuzzed-up sludge metal of debut full-length Sigillum Luciferi and the subsequent inking of a deal with underground leviathans Relapse Records, 2010’s Ritual Abuse was a hulking, psychedelic colossus that paid homage to its peers whilst cementing the band’s style as their own – a kaleidoscopic wall of impenetrable doom that hailed the band as one of the ultimate purveyors of such cosmic depravity. Borne from the same bubbling cauldron that birthed the decrepit drones of Burning Witch, Cough are a shining beacon within the genre despite ironically residing in the fetid trough of murk and despair that epitomises such a sound.
Whether co/vocalist and four-stringer Parker Chandler’s involvement with doom gurus Windhand was a contributing factor to Cough’s six year gap between albums remains to be seen, but either way, the latter’s return will undoubtedly be celebrated throughout the extreme metal universe. The first half of the album cements this thought with iron-clad finality, with opener ‘Haunter of the Dark’ lucid in its crawling chaos and stark in its Lovecraftian form. ‘Possession’ and the doleful wanderings of ‘Masters of Torture’ see Chandler’s & Cisco’s vocals range from mournful and melodic to shrieks that convey utter savagery, with a bloodcurdling snarl that would leave Eyehategod grinning manically in the wake of the accursed chanting of, “live to hate; hate to live.”
A semblance of change cloaks the second half of the album, with new ideas being attempted, that, in the hands of a band as well versed as Cough, are executed masterfully. ‘Shadow of the Torturer’ enters with muted melody before erupting into a gigantic, riff-caked monstrosity of an instrumental jam, whilst ‘Let It Bleed’ is a mournful, sorrowful almost-ballad, delivered in the true soul-crushing fashion of a band who revel in their heavier-than-thou existence.
Electric Wizard’s Jus Oborn handles the production this time around, furnishing the album with a distinctly primeval sound; in turn, the comparison to Oborn’s very own occult-drenched doom child is inescapable, yet Cough’s immense clamour is undeniably their own – whether delivering crushing, malevolent sludge or losing themselves within all-encompassing, mind-altering doom, their personal stamp is more conspicuous here than ever before.
Utterly intoxicating in all its punishing, psychedelic splendour, Still They Pray is a glorious homecoming for Cough, who remain masters of their art as well as one of the preeminent bands to seamlessly meld doom and sludge to both devastating and mesmerising effect. These riffs have grown immeasurably in their slumber, and now finally released, they push the band to the absolute top of their game.