I used to not really like The Body. I never considered them a metal band, even though that was where they had more or less made their nest early on. I always perceived them as a noise band that got cool among the metal intelligentsia (read: terminally bored scene kids only semi-seriously projecting a love for the most obscure shit possible). I saw them as maybe a particularly dark, doomy, and experimental noise band, but still did not understand the hype.
The first release of theirs that properly engaged me was 2014’s I Shall Die Here – with it’s intensely bleak aesthetic, harsh textures, and deeply depressing subject matter. That record, unlike their previous efforts, benefited from some really stellar production and contributions courtesy of The Haxan Cloak. This is where I feel The Body began to legitimately expand their horizons beyond the suffocating trudge of their earlier work, and that got me interested.
Subsequent solo releases, along with the duo’s many collaborations with other musicians (Thou, Krieg, Full of Hell, etc) have revealed them to possess a very wide set of influences and modes in which they can operate. Their 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness was a really incredible testament to that idea, in that it was a noise album with song structures derived from pop music and then overlaid with themes of depression and suicide. Even as I type this, that sort of project seems unworkable to me, but they executed it extremely well.
With their newest release I Have Fought Against It But I Can’t Any Longer, The Body continue their experimentation and have again teamed up with the incredibly talented Chrissy Wolpert and Kristin Hayter, whose vocals appear on several tracks here (side note: Hayter’s solo project Lingua Ignota produced one of my favorite records of 2017: All Bitches Die). On this record, the duo employ a combination of new and recycled sonic material to create an interesting balance that frequently teeters on the fringes of both violence and grief.
The Body has largely kept intact many of their core tropes here, ie: an obsessive focus on pain, depression, and suicide (the name of the record is taken from a line in Virginia Woolf’s suicide note) and the extended monologue that constitutes the majority of the closing track Ten Times a Day Every Day A Stranger focuses on the pain of alienation and existence at large via a reading from the Czech novel Too Loud a Solitude. Something I have come to love about The Body are their references to the literary – present as well on songs from previous releases (the song Prescience from No one Deserves Happiness contains a striking passage from Edouard Leve’s novel Suicide). This is something many other bands hint at or possibly pay homage to in more oblique ways, but The Body has a tendency to incorporate the literary in a much more direct way that I find really satisfying.
I Have Fought It But I Can’t Any Longer feels best digested as a whole, in order to become fully suffused in the mood that it generates. However, this is not to say that there aren’t some stand out moments here. Most prominent, and also most poignant for me would be the album’s midpoint, a track called Nothing Stirs. This is one of the pieces featuring Kristin Hayter’s vocals, and they absolutely define the atmosphere throughout. The song begins with a simple electronic drumbeat and some minimal swells, and throughout its nearly six minute duration it continuously builds upon itself until reaching a shattering crescendo. By the time it reaches this climax, Hayter’s voice has pushed well beyond the lilting, operatic quality it had in the beginning to a desperate, angry scream that projects pure anguish with every breath.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are several intense moments like this on the record, during which the juxtaposition of harsh sonic textures and beautiful singing that devolve to incoherent screeching create an atmosphere of grotesque melancholy. The track Blessed, Alone is probably the most perfect example of this. In my mind, this is really where The Body best demonstrates their unique ability to craft a true sense of what it is like to experience existence as a constant, wearying assault on every physical sense and emotion.
When considering I Have Fought Against It But I Can’t Any Longer within the pantheon of The Body’s other work, it is consistent with the arc of their evolution since I Shall Die Here, and the duo continue to create raw, genuine works that engage both viscerally as well as intellectually. Even though I still don’t consider them to be a metal band, their music blends enough influences to essentially make genre irrelevant, and that’s something that is usually a hallmark of true artistry. If these guys have pulled you in with their music before, you will not be disappointed. If they haven’t yet, this is a solid entry point.
Release Date: May 11, 2018
Label: Thrill Jockey
Favorite Tracks: Nothing Stirs, Blessed Alone, Can Carry No Weight
For Fans Of: Dying Slowly in Extreme Pain and Isolation