Subversive Sacraments and Immense Dirges
The Body's Transcendental End-of-the-World Music
A friend once described a house show from his teenage years as a religious experience. That kind of reverence is typically reserved for congregations lost in oratory under the vaulted ceilings of the church, but it can also happen in the sweaty throngs of a dank, crowded basement under the siege of electrified sound. Christianity sees it as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, but in the music world, we struggle to explain that particular kind of ecstasy.
Armed with a wall of amplifiers and a drum set, Chip King and Lee Buford of the Body might not know how to describe religious rapture, but they certainly attempt to harness that power. Even their name seems like a reference to the Eucharist, an attempt to make the divine something tangible. They deliver their immense, impossibly low-tuned dirges in unconventional spaces—basements, warehouses, and, yes, the occasional church. But there is a constant: The duo always performs in close proximity to the crowd, among the masses, so that even with their punishing volume, you can hear King's unmic'd and unholy howl throughout the room.
Every breed of rock music that's ever been accused of blasphemy has been co-opted by Christian artists, but the Portland-based band aren't men of faith playing the devil's music. Rather, they revel in religion's power of persuasion and the extreme lengths people will take to walk in line with their beliefs. The Body's apocalyptically titled album All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood opens with seven minutes of a cappella singing provided by the Assembly of Light Choir before the first earthquaking chord drops. "Empty Hearth" is propelled by hypnotic samples of chanting by the doomsday sect Church Universal and Triumphant. Shirts at the merch table are emblazoned with grainy images of people holding signs saying "I Believe in Jim Jones."
Many doom-and-gloom metal bands attempt to make end-of-the-world music into a transcendental experience. All too many simply sound like burnouts too stoned to play music with an active pulse. But the Body not only know how to write a solid, crushing riff, they know how to deliver it in the context of a subversive sacrament. Will their show at the Highline be a religious experience? Step up to their altar of amplifiers and find out.