I keep putting this one off, because I keep flipping back an forth on it. IV.I.VIII is the second full-length release of Indianapolis band Coffinworm. I would mostly categorize this as a sludge album with some hints of death metal here and there. At least the most memorable moments for me are when things slow way down and get deep, dark, and heavy. This is exactly what the opener does. The track starts fast and is built around a riff. You might think you’re in for a death metal album.
Then the song slows down little by little. It feels like they are running through glue. By the end you can physically feel the band pulling the song along, but no matter how hard they pull it just keeps slowing down out of their control until there is no motion left. The last notes are hanging there unable to continue.
The effect is really great. They remind me a bit of Ulcerate. That comparison also refers to the static tonality that the end of this song is built around. What keeps it interesting comes from the slowing down, the guitar tone getting darker and more distorted, and the changing textures. For this reason, I could see a good argument that the song is uninteresting because of its lack of a well-developed melody or chord progression. I think it works, though. The intended effect comes through and is great.
The next song starts with the downtempo sludge/doom feel. This song basically embodies the main essence of this album. The songs tend to be built around one idea. That idea can be turned around in all sorts of ways to make the different sections of the song. Usually this involves taking a dirty, heavy sound and making it dirty, heavier, and slower.
I could see people thinking it is too repetitive, but I think this is necessary to achieve the effect they want. I find myself getting sucked into the groove and losing myself in it. If the song changed too much or too rapidly, then the listener would get pulled out of the moment. The point is to experience the moment. If you think about what is going on too much, then you’ll miss the experience.
The album continues in this vein until we reach “Lust vs Vengeance.” This song turns a lot noisier than the stuff before it and the riffs it is based around make the song sound like it could be a slowed down death metal song. Other than that, the overall formula stays basically the same as before.
The last song is back to a bit faster tempo. I find these in-between moments to be the most fascinating. The band does a really great job locking into these speeds. It is one thing to just go really fast. It is another to lock into a slow groove. It is fairly difficult to lock into something in the middle and make it sound natural, especially with blast beats tempting you to speed up.
Overall I think this album is really well done. Some might find the repetitiveness and static nature of the chord progressions not to their taste, but it works here. This album is heavy and draining. It sucks you in and spits you out the other side before you know what hits you. It’s harsh and sludgy. I give it a 9/10. Here’s a sample: