Church's redemption songs
How the doom band found the faith to shake up Sacramento’s underground metal scene
The bones and skulls are neatly arranged, readied for ceremony as candles drip and incense burns. A figure hooded in black takes the center of the pulpit—her back turned, her arms raised, her hips moving in slow rhythm. As the air thickens with ominous tones, she lets loose a longing wail, and the sermon begins.
And to think that this is just the opening act.
Local doom metal band Church melds worship of the riff and arcane mysticism into looping, droning, crushing and sometimes soaring songs that journey from low despair to heightened redemption. Their music, like much in the doom genre, excels in hypnotizing and entrancing listeners, entrapping them in weighty fuzz and sludge. And it’s OK if you’re not able to pick up the lyrics; the entire package is intended to be felt viscerally.
“All of it’s like a feeling. It’s more important for people to connect with it on their own,” said Church’s vocalist, Eva. (Members of the band asked to remain on a first-name basis.)
Church has been playing shows since the fall of 2014, never taking the top of a local bill, but always gaining certainty and strength in their performances.
The band recently released its first album, Unanswered Hymns, and its emergence in April arguably shook the world of underground doom metal, gaining universally glowing praise from publications like Metal Injection and SN&R’s own blog. CVLT Nation even named the record its doom release of the month.
The band was stunned by its reception and widespread notice.
“It’s really weird how fast it’s starting to progress. Out of every band I’ve ever been in the fucking past 10 years, nothing has even come close to this,” said guitarist Shann.
It’s not that bandmembers didn’t have faith in their creation. After all, they spent loads of time and effort hammering out the finer details. Church started writing and rehearsing in late 2013, but they didn’t play a single show until almost a year later.
“[Most bands] will just get some songs together and say, ’Let’s go play some shows, let’s go do this,’ whereas we actually spent a lot of fucking time putting these songs together, making sure that we didn’t look like assholes when we came out,” Shann said.
That attention to detail is why Church only had two songs ready for its first show, guitarist and vocalist Chris said. Of course, it’s worth noting that those songs both easily breezed past the 10-minute mark.
Before long, the band—comprising Chris, Shann, Ben (bass), Matt (drums) and Eva—started opening for widely known masters, like crossover thrashers Iron Reagan and NOLA sludge deities Eyehategod at a Halloween show. After that, they played a spectacular show with local legends Will Haven and the almighty Yob, not just surviving but outright thrilling a crowd that clearly had high expectations.
Church continues to move up in profile as the band sets out on its first tour, a six-stop trip through the northwest. It starts Thursday, June 4, at Press Club—the release show for their album on tape, released through Transylvanian Tapes out of Oakland. Unanswered Hymns will also see a vinyl release on the late side of this year, through Battleground Records in Arizona. And if you’re not into analog, you can download the album from Bandcamp for $6.66—a fitting price for such a religious experience.