With No One Deserves Happiness, Portland metal experimentalists The Body don’t add any new elements to their sound or introduce any new collaborators. Instead, they reconfigure their core elements — Chip King’s self-waged war between his shrieks and thick sheets of riff-noise, Lee Buford’s man-machine hammer, frequent collaborator Chrissy Wolpert’s vocals and chorus arrangements —and conscript them into their widening vision of the spot where metal intersects with other dark genres. The result is less sprawling than All The Waters of Earth Turn to Blood and scarier for its concision.
Wolpert’s contributions over the years makes her almost a third member, and on Happiness she fights against the usual notion of women metal vocalists as pretty voices in the background or magnets for male gaze by becoming the confrontational center. The Body have often lashed out at the world through envisioning its end, and Wolpert turns that anxiety inward, proving that, yes, they can get more uncomfortable. The songs in which she has the heaviest hand are Happiness’ most powerful. Her chants of "go it alone" throughout leadoff track "Wanderings" feel like a visceral reminder of unremitting horror, and her chamber-pop instincts take on an alien tinge next to King’s shrill wail. She can also play off herself, as she does by combining a more brooding croon with brief soaring highs in "The Fall and The Guilt," the album’s most devastating track.
"Adamah" sees guest vocalist Maralie Armstrong channelling Kate Bush over Buford’s clipping thuds, not too far off from Rabit’s bullets-as-percussion approach. Combined with King’s clipped rhythm, which recalls Blood’s "A Curse," it's the closest to pop that The Body have ever come. This isn’t a huge leap for them: They’ve covered Sinéad O’Connor’s "Black Boys in Mopeds," Nine Inch Nails' "Terrible Lie," (with Thou) and Fleetwood Mac’s "The Chain" (also with Thou); never before has it seeped into their composition like this.
Pop and metal have more in common than diehards of both would prefer to admit, and one is both rely heavily on structure and tight performance. The Body aren’t improvisatory live, but they don’t play it straight like most metal bands do either, putting it all into an endurance test that’s made them both the heaviest live metal act and guaranteed death for punk houses’ electrical systems. King leans on noise on Happiness more than ever before, from subtle squeals in "Shelter is Illusory" and the undercurrent of "Hallow / Hollow" to the complete absence of chord structure in "For You" and "Guilt." When "The Myth Arc," the final song, kicks in, King blurs the line between doom metal and total noise abstraction. Buford is also a freer player than before, incorporating the punch of harsh techno beats but without an interest in keeping listeners in line with a steady, comfortable tempo. In a way, The Body has always been obsessed with feelings of consuming futility, and in kicking free of conventional structures and following Wolpert's lead, they've come closer than ever to their truest selves on record.
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