There's a lot more to distortion than its dictionary-dry definitions about soundforms and electronics would have you believe. Distortion is the reason your mate's BOSS MT-2 Metal Zone pedal burst your eardrums during band practice last year. It's why you felt like your bones might shake clean out of your body last time you saw Sunn O))). Distortion, when used right, has the ability to take music from being a sonic experience to a transcendental one.
This fact isn't lost on US experimental metal duo The Body. The brainchild of guitarist and vocalist Chip King and drummer and programmer Lee Buford, they first caught the attention of metal's avant garde with the release of their self-titled debut album in 2004. Its follow up, 2010's All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood, set a precedent for expecting the unexpected from the duo. It fused doom-laden riffs with choral work from the Assembly of Light Choir and a sprinkling of industrial rock for good measure, and threw two fingers up at chin-stroking hypotheses about what doom metal "should" sound like in the process.
Now, eight albums in, the pair have used their new record, I’ve Seen All I Need To See, to explore just how far you can push sonic experiments in noise, distortion and destruction without completely tearing everything apart.
"We wanted to make an album that was more like our live show but also had the same dynamics we usually put into recorded work," Buford tells Metal Hammer. While The Body's previous albums have been exercises in the power of collaboration – including work with Full Of Hell, Uniform, and Neill Jameson – this time they knew they wanted to wheel everything back. "In the past we’ve had more guests and instrumentation. On this we focused more on trying to get the levels of distortion we have live."
Where The Body play their meanest trick is in balancing their sonic heft with a disarming lightness of touch. They know that pulling back is just as powerful as letting rip, and their music is more detailed and considered than you'd think possible for something that sounds so... vicious. It's so brutal in places that it almost becomes serene. Remember what we said about transcending?
"We recorded everything live which we haven’t done in quite a long time," says Buford. "We also played more minimally to let the distortion and reverb ring out and fill up those spaces. It was recorded at machines with magnets where we do most everything and was recorded by our friend Seth Manchester."
In their willingness to explore and take risks, The Body have carved a space for themselves as one of metal's most exciting forces. Their new album is testament to their musical intellect, sure; but more importantly, it grasps hold of the pure cathartic power of making an ear-shattering racket.
"I hope people will get some emotional reaction out of the new record," concludes Buford. "These days if we can get anyone to feel something that’s an achievement since everything is so grim.
"I worry we’ll all become numb to everything."
I’ve Seen All I Need To See is available now via Thrill Jockey