Last week I was driving home alone late at night after hanging out with some friends. I live relatively out in the country, so my drive found me taking back roads; roads that weave back and forth through forested areas and are mostly, but not always, paved. I remember it being especially dark, cold, and damp that night, so I had both the music and the heat blasting. However, it wasn’t the weather that made this particular night stand out to me, but rather the truck behind me. I saw the truck when it drove up behind me, but it wasn’t until it got way too close for comfort and began flashing its high beams at me that I really took notice. At first it just annoyed me, but when the driver kept doing it for miles through these obscure back roads, I started to get a little freaked out. The more I thought about it, the more my mind raced and began recalling the stories told in all of the true crime docu-series that I’d been binge-watching on Netflix. Did this person want to scare me, or worse, were they warning me of someone hiding in my backseat (come on, I’ve done my urban legends research)? After a while though, the driver backed off and took a right turn, but the damage to my psyche had been done. I was scared.
Now that the event is separated from me by a few days I can see that I wasn’t really in any danger that night. In reality, I was probably just driving too slowly on a one-lane road which, in turn, pissed off the person behind me. But in the moment I was fairly certain that my abandoned car was going to be found a few days later with no sign of me in it. And yet, for as frightened as I allowed myself to be during those fifteen or so minutes, I also felt completely alive. Corny as it sounds, my heart was racing, my senses were heightened, and I was acutely aware of everything around me. In a way it was an exhilarating, visceral experience. Of course the timing of this event was perfect considering that I’m now talking about The Body and their latest album I Shall Die Here and how absolutely terrifying it is.
The Body has long been a band that has dealt in the very darkest aspects of the human heart. They surround themselves with macabre imagery, their videos and promotional material are like something out of a horror movie, and their music is so oppressively dark and heavy that it feels inescapable. None of this is news, as the duo has been dealing this very specific form of darkness for ten years now, but I Shall Die Here finds the band trying on a much different mask than before. Working with The Haxan Cloak on production, an artist who also knows a thing or two about scaring his listeners, The Body has crafted an album that is easily their most forward-thinking and flat out unsettling work yet. And while it brandishes a lot of the touchstones of the band’s music, it filters those sounds through an electronic, industrial mesh, mechanizing it in the process. Their once organic, decaying material now feels re-animated, industrial, and bionic. These are the the sinister sounds of Tetsuo happening, where the borders between flesh and wire are becoming increasingly unclear and the resulting monster gains strength with each passing moment.
What truly sets I Shall Die Here apart from the rest of The Body’s previous work though is how truly terrifying it sounds. I mentioned that the album is unsettling, and I mean it. It’s an album that taps into the same morbid curiosity that drives people to compulsively watch horror movies or read about serial killers. But where most of those people consider their macabre interests just that, interests, The Body are utterly fixated on them. And on this album, we are inhabiting their world and therefore must play by their rules. While death is certain, it’s also unknown. Peering into the abstract ugliness of I Shall Die Here affords the listener a chance to stare the darkness and death straight in the face and have it stare right back.
As to why they celebrate such things, everything is pretty much summed up in the track “Alone All the Way.” In an extended bit of dialogue, the band lifts entire segment from The Suicide Tourist, a documentary about the assisted suicide of a man named Craig Ewert. It goes:
At this point, you know, I’ve got two choices. I either actually go through with it, or I say, ‘You know what? I’m too scared right now. I don’t want to do it.’ If I go through with it, I die, as I must at some point. If I don’t go through with it, my choice is essentially to suffer and to inflict suffering on my family, and then die, possibly in a way that is considerably more stressful and painful than this way. I’ve got death. I’ve got suffering and death. Well gee, you know, this makes a whole lot of sense to me.
This is all really morbid stuff to think about, and any sane person would question why. Why listen to something so fixated on death, darkness, and suffering? And while a valid question, I’d posit that you don’t even really need to have an answer to enjoy the experience of I Shall Die Here, so I’m not even going to try and come up with one. When it comes down to it, it’s like that night I was driving alone on those back roads. It’s terrifying and ultimately unsettling experience, but also an exhilarating one and, who knows, maybe it will even make you feel just a little bit more alive—if you don’t die screaming first.
I Shall Die Here is available April 1st via RVNG Intl.