For a band named after the meat-suits we all wear, The Body creates music that sounds divorced from physicality and flesh. Emphasizing the horror of human consciousness (the fear of not existing, the pain of being, that little voice in your head urging you to dive off the nearest cliff), the sounds they make sound like they’re being made out of body. Their music crackles and hums like pure electricity, guitars and drums and electronics going haywire from fired synapses raging against the dying of the light. Chip King’s strangled voice, keening over the noise, recalls Alice’s description of the Cheshire Cat as a “grin without a cat”— his voice sounds like a scream without a body.
The Body’s name is fitting, though: They make music that seeps into your bones like the cold. Seeing them live for the first time at 51 West during their One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache tour with Full of Hell, it felt like their set was going to bring the building down on our heads. The noise they conjured up was so intense we could feel our clothes vibrating on our bodies; it was like the air itself was being whipped into a frenzy, crashing against us like waves on the shore.
Their show built to such a fever pitch that the guy sitting behind their merch table broke through the crowd, stood in front of the band, and started whipping a chain around the room. The band didn’t stop playing. The Body continued smothering us with their blanket of grinding sounds while the man with the chain shouted and flailed his iron whip at the crowd. Chain snapping at our feet, the crowd ebbed and flowed, wanting to be close to the band, to the roar of their amps, but didn’t want to feel the sting of cold links biting into our toes. This game of one step forward, three steps back continued for a few songs before the chain man melted into the crowd.
To this day, I’m not sure if that was supposed to be part of the show or if the band’s music had made the man snap. Maybe the sound was riding him the way voodoo spirits are supposed to ride their summoners; The Body’s music had taken him over. The sound was the one whipping us, not him.
It’s a testament to the intensity of The Body’s music that this theory seems as reasonable as any.
If there is one word that can sum up the band’s sprawling discography, it’s intensity. The Body makes music that comes down on the listener like a vise. They don’t rock or rage so much as they apply pressure. It’s music that slowly and inexorably pins people to the ground.
Formed in Providence in 1999, The Body are a power duo: Chip King on guitars and vox, Lee Buford on programming and drums. While they’re a small unit, they’re an insanely prolific one. The Body have amassed quite a (pardon the pun) body of work over the years: seven studio albums, eight collaborative albums, six EPs, and a handful of split singles.
A body of work unified by loud and abrasive textures, their albums are also connected by a bracing philosophical bleakness. Suicide and mortality hang heavy over their work. The title of their latest album, I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer, is taken from a line in Virginia Woolf’s suicide note. And consider the album cover of their 2015 Haxan Cloak-produced monster I Shall Die Here: the Earth, suspended in shadows. Normally, when we see pictures of our planet, it’s supposed to inspire feelings of awe and humility; for The Body, the picture just illustrates the grim reality that none of us are getting off this ball of mud and water alive. Mother Nature is also a mortician.
But for all their meditations on “to dust we shall we return,” The Body have a wry sense of humor that makes the bitterness go down a little smoother. Nobody who takes themselves too seriously would call a record titled No One Deserves Happiness their pop record, but that’s exactly what King and Buford did in interviews in 2016 (citing Taylor Swift and The Weeknd as influences). And their appreciation for pop isn’t a joke: They’ve been known to throw the occasional Fleetwood Mac cover into their shows. Just because you make music that sounds like it’s soundtracking a grave robbing doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate Rumors, too.
And for all their sonic violence, The Body still manage to sneak in some moments of grace and beauty in their work.
One of the things that makes I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer such a rewarding listen is the way the band integrates “clean” vocals into their maelstrom. Lingua Ignota’s Kristin Hayter and Assembly of Light Choir’s Chrissy Wolpert contribute vocals to the album. On “Nothing Stirs” and “Can Carry No Weight,” their voices add a gothic sensuality and ethereal transcendence (respectively) to the band’s thunderous music. They cut through The Body’s roar like rays of light piercing a storm cloud.
The fact that Hayter and Wolpert can fit so seamlessly into the band’s sound is no surprise; The Body have a long history of playing well with others. In addition to working with Wolpert’s Assembly of Light Choir in the past, The Body have cut numerous collaborative albums and one-offs. They’ve recorded two albums with metal band Full of Hell that could be considered career-best releases for both groups. One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache finds the sweet spot between The Body’s creeping horror and Full of Hell’s frenzied throat-and-string shredding, while follow-up Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light builds on their work together to create something so heavy and primal that neither group could achieve it on their own.
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The Body have also worked with Uniform, Krieg, and Thou (another doom group with a penchant for saying “yes” to every offer to cut a collab). Their collaborative albums are a testament to Buford and King’s ability to stretch and bend their style to complement the work of their peers.
They also have a knack for picking the perfect partners for their own records, like drafting in The Haxan Cloak for I Shall Die Here. Haxan Cloak’s Bobby Krlic is a kindred spirit: his 2013 electronic album Excavation is a dense and eerie soundscape that chronicles the human body’s passage into death. It’s a record about rot and loss and returning to the Earth; it’s basically the most Body album that Buford and King never recorded.
Veteran road dogs, The Body are back on tour and taking their album-length suicide note across the country. Whether or not the chain man will be there too, whipping the crowd with gleeful abandon, remains to be seen. But it’s hard to blame him: who could listen to The Body live and not be overwhelmed with the urge to lash out at everything? It’s why they named a record after a Courtney Love lyric. Someday you will ache like we ache. It wasn’t an album title — it’s a promise.
The Body perform on Saturday, July 28 at The Rebel Lounge, 2303 East Indian School Road. Tickets are $10-$12 at ticketfly.com.