Ritual Abuse

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Cough's sophomore opus, 2010's Ritual Abuse, finds the Richmond, VA quartet stepping up to the plate, in a sense, in recognition of their new deal with Relapse Records, delivering a markedly consistent set of imposing, claustrophobic sludge/doom slabs. In fact, protracted slow grinds like "Mind Collapse," "A Year in Suffering," and the title track exploit the band's dual nature -- part doom, part sludge -- with almost predictable balance: shifting back and forth between corrosive riffs topped with ragged screams and sorrowful chords capped with whiney Ozzy-style vocals like a couple of co-dependent drug addicts rooming together at a rehab center. With needle-scarred arms draped around each other, these songs lumber and stumble about drunkenly; seemingly oblivious to the periodic strains of blissed-out psychedelia, outer space sound effects, and blinding distortion that occasionally interrupt their search for the next fix; all the while tormented by satanic incantations and occult rituals to boot. Nestled amid these epics, there's a relative "quick one" called "Crippled Wizard" and the acoustically enhanced "Crooked Spine," but they barely distract from Cough's willingly self-destructive, "doom what thou wilt" ethos, which is to say: this is heavy stuff. And, thanks to the steady hand brought to the proceedings by producer/sponsor Sanford Parker, Cough's songs generally arrive at their destination, however long they take to get there, without in any way "ritually abusing" listeners along the way.

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