The formula for good extreme metal tends to be a mixture of death, doom (or sludge) and black metal: just listen to the likes of Dragged Into Sunlight, Portal, Abyssal and Terra Tenebrosa for example. Coffinworm is another one of these bands. Ever since falling across the When All Became None and Great Bringer of Night releases a few years ago, Coffinworm has been one of those bands I'll keep going back to whenever I need that dirge sound. Admittedly, as each year passed since the rerelease/album version of Great Bringer of Night, the band slipped from my memory more and more... now with IV.I.VIII, they've smashed their way back into prominence in the ugliest and best way possible.
IV.I.VIII is a testament for all things heavy, ugly and dark. The band are clearly pushing their own boundaries even further. The overall sound is a lot dirtier - even muddier - and it works well in this context with the growling of the bass and guitars along with the rumble of drums on the majority of the tracks makes each one sound more than just music: it's almost like the earth belching curses after millenniums of human abuse, or demons casting judgements before serving their own street justice. This might sound like an exaggeration, but listen and you'll hear what I mean.
Along with all this, the dark humour still shows in the song titles (previous ones along the likes of 'Spitting In Infinity's Asshole' and 'Strip Nude For Your Killer') as early as the first track, titled 'Sympathectomy'. This opener is an absolute beast and sets the tone for the album nicely: low-end riffing guitars that grind your skull and unforgiving blastbeats, and a mix of screams and growls (the opening scream instantly reminds me why I love the vocals so much - you can hear the strain, and so the vocals never end up sounding artificial). The chorus riff is so dark and evil sounding too, just beautiful.
The second track, 'Instant Death Syndrome', isn't a new song but the fine-tuning and better recording really gives it a good reason to be on the album (not to take away any praise for the Fistula split version - each are great in their own way). The next three tracks are generally slower to the first two, a balance to their death metal styles, 'Black Tears' is a sadistic throat-ripping monster and the drums sound especially fucking incredible here, almost as if they're being beaten in a chamber, and 'Lust vs. Vengeance' is generally very sluggish, taking joy in tension. Then there's my highlight of the whole album...
'Of Eating Disorders and Restraining Orders' is a monolithic ride. Opening with feedback and dropping into a simple chugged riff, it baits you in for a few moments, and then the rest of the band comes in... it's exhilarating. The drums hammer and as usual the muddying of the bass and guitars just rumbles you along, and it feels like the vocals are at their rawest and unforgiving here. The song progresses through a few different phases that take you by surprise (there's a disturbing pitch-shifted vocal sample around the middle that makes me uncomfortable every time), and it's by far the most hard-hitting track on the album, which is saying a lot.
The final track 'A Death Sentence Called Life' sees the band nod towards their black metal influences for the finale: tremolo riffs and blastbeats but with growls as opposed to screams. It closes the album nicely, taking you to the peak and letting you go gently with some clean guitar being plucked inbetween feedback, drones and drums.
If you haven't got the idea yet, it's a dark and punishing experience. It seems like Coffinworm have managed to find the right balance in their sound - really filth-ridden but well recorded - and it's made them sound all the more evil because of it. IV.I.VIII was definitely worth the wait. I can't see any fan of the band being disappointed by this.