When properly done, raw production adds incredible atmospheric depth. For example, take Ulver’s Nattens madrigal – Aatte hymne til ulven i manden: buzzsaw guitars, screeching vocals, and hollow percussion that create a haunting, coarse masterwork that evokes primitive animus through the imagery of wolves. It would not have nearly the same callous acerbity with “good” production; Nattens madrigal is the sonic equivalent of nature’s ruthlessness.1
The Church exhibits what happens when “raw” becomes “bad.” On Nattens madrigal, one can still hear each instrument, melody, and construct; Ulver did not forsake clairity in pursuit of harshness. Krieg’s The Church throws all manner of clarity out the window for an almost unlistenable mess – not “unlistenable” in the sense of bad musicianship, but “unlistenable” as in it’s extremely difficult to actually hear anything other than hoarse HOOBADOOBA lyrics and potato-quality percussion.
“Destruction Ritual” has some decent riffs buried in the deep, dark clipping of twenty dollar desktop speakers; and the second recording of “To Wander the Stars” is a brutal example of the war metal that Krieg would later explore on the Patrick Bateman extended-play and The Black House full-length. The production quality on the latter track is notably different from the rest of the album, and had The Church been entirely recorded in that quality, then it would be a far more effective and enjoyable listen. Otherwise, it just further signifies the extant unevenness. The middle three tracks are dreadful.
The New Jersey black metallers grew the beard starting with the release of Blue Miasma; The Church is a good example of how spotty the group was during their first decade of existence.
1. Destruction Ritual – (4:26) – ★★★★☆
2. To Wander the Stars – (4:00) – ★☆☆☆☆
3. The Ancients Dwell Beneath – (4:23) – ★☆☆☆☆
4. As Graveyard Rites, As Darkness Fell – (5:39) – ★☆☆☆☆
5. To Wander the Stars – (4:17) – ★★★★☆
1Varg Vikernes decision to re-record various Burzum tracks for From the Depths of Darkness demonstrates how much is lost in translation from raw to clean production.