Cough

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The opinions of IO staff have rarely been so divided on any given album as they are on Still They Pray, the long-awaited new album by Virginian doom outfit Cough. Jon Rosenthal expressed his distaste in his Upcoming Metal Releases column. Andrew Sacher posted some words about the album along with the full album stream on the day of its release. Today, Chris Rowella weighs in. -Ed.

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In the music industry, several years without an album used to be an eternity that many bands couldn't recover from. Unless you were an established legacy act, once the lights faded it was rare for them to shine on you again. Now, in our on-demand culture, bands return after 10, 20 or even 30 years (welcome back Satan!) and enjoying a successful second career. Cough are just shy of six years removed from their last album, the magnificent Ritual Abuse, but the songs presented on Still They Pray may just have needed to gestate that long.

After working with producer Sanford Parker on their previous full-lengths, Cough went with Electric Wizard mastermind Jus Oborn to interpret their vision on Still They Pray, and his imprint is immediately obvious right from opener "Haunter Of The Dark." Vocalist/bassist Parker Chandler has traded in the tortured, raspy vocals and now utilizes his affected psychedelic singing voice exclusively. This might turn off some fans, but it complements the music much better; besides that, there are enough bands doing the Mike Williams 'chewing on glass' vocals that a change of pace is more than welcome.

The Electric Wizard influence may come on a bit too strong at times - you could swap out "Dead Among The Roses" or "Masters Of Torture" with anything off Witchcult Today without noticing much difference - but Pray isn't blindly following Oborn's footsteps.

The album's strongest track is "Let It Bleed," leading off with a bluesy melancholic main riff and Chandler almost crooning before giving way to swirling feedback and wah-wah guitars that still maintain a sense of control and cadence. The title track closes out the album with a sparse acoustic guitar murder ballad, akin to something you'd find on a Jay Munly or 16 Horsepower record. It's haunting, effective and a brilliant finish.

With today's current over-saturation of doom bands and albums, Cough could have easily phoned in a new album full of feedback and repetitive riffs and still done fine. Instead, Still They Pray is the band's most diverse album to date and displays vastly improved songwriting on top of what was already an American doom institution. Summer is already here; turn it all the way up.

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Still They Pray is out now via Relapse. Follow Cough on Facebook.

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