On their first non-collaborative album since 2013, No One Deserves Happiness, The Body set out to create the grossest pop album of all time. They cited Beyoncé as an influence on the record. The cover is a pale shade of Sunbather pink, featuring a crude facial drawing of and by one of the members of co-conspirators Full of Hell (their collaboration, One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache, comes out precisely one week later than No One Deserves Happiness). Have The Body, who have spent years walking a narrow tightrope between heavy metal, noise, and electronic music, gone full parody, or did they accomplish their stated mission? To put it quite simply, no, and then yes.
In the world of pop, bombastic production, catchy melodies, huge choruses, and memorable lyrics rule the day. On No One Deserves Happiness, The Body have aimed their trademark sound in that direction; their take on pop music is a gross mutation of pop’s parameters. Some of the tracks on No One Deserves Happiness can realistically be described as “dance” music, but that’s not to say this is easy or light material. These dance tracks are diabolical. It’s apparent that The Body gleaned much more from their collaboration with electronic artist The Haxan Cloak than a stellar release in 2014’s I Shall Die Here, as their own talent to use electronic textures has increased exponentially. Happiness also most prominently features the ethereal female vocals of the Assembly of Light Choir (another longtime collaborative act).
No One Deserves Happiness is likely The Body’s least “metal” album; it has been hard to define this band as strictly a metal band for quite some time. It is a truthful depiction of The Body’s ever-evolving personality, however. This is not a band who are afraid to take chances or push limits. Their trademark sound, Chip King’s ever-present shrieks and Lee Buford’s monstrous militant drumming, melds with synths, programmed drum beats, harsh noise, plus everything else and the kitchen sink. The variety of sounds and stylistic changes is one of its greatest strengths!
“Wanderings”, the album’s first track, sets the tone with a simple drum and cymbal rhythm and haunting singing before adding a horn-like synth, until the track evolves into something reminiscent of The Body’s previous works. “Shelter Is Illusory” (above) picks up the tempo, and features vocals from Humanbeast’s Maralie Armstrong. This first advance single showed just what The Body had been getting up to on the solo end since Christs, Redeemers. The next track, “For You” changes gears entirely; it’s essentially harsh noise with drumming.
“Hallow / Hollow” (above) sounds more like The Body than anything we’ve heard yet. It’s big and imposing, with air raid sirens not too far removed from the intro to their Master, We Perish EP. “Hallow / Hollow” is the imposing rumble from the Earth’s core. “Two Snakes”, like “Shelter is Illusory”, continues their take on pop music, and the title is fitting, given its slithering rhythm. “Adamah”, the album’s sixth track and centerpiece, the most accessible song here, goes four minutes without King’s vocals; one could wonder what this means for their future full lengths. “Starving Deserter” comes from the same place sonically as “Hallow / Hollow”, given a cinematic feel from an organ that wouldn’t be out of place during a film’s slow-motion climactic battle scene.
The last trilogy of songs on No One Deserves Happiness are a departure from the pace set before, similar to the wonky finale of last year’s Abyssal Gods (though the music is vastly different). “The Fall and the Guilt” goes another four minutes without Chip’s shrieks. It’s beautiful, cryptic singing and warm static, as the song eventually dissolves. “Prescience”, Happiness’ last proper musical track, opens with an audiobook recording from Suicide by Edouard Lev, describing a familial pathos of violence. The track builds to a triumphant crescendo. “The Myth Arc”, the album’s last “song”, reminds me of the end of last year’s Crowhurst and last year’s Dregs. It’s as much static noise as it is a glacial riff; swap out the hellfire Eugene S. Robinson sermon (from Crowhurst) for the Assembly of Light Choir and you’re almost there. It’s a trick The Body have used before, on their cover of Jane’s Addiction’s “I Would For You” on their Tears of Job EP. It’s a confounding end to a confounding album.
In a sense, No One Deserves Happiness is a hedonistic affair that finds the band operating on any and every whim they had during its creation. Sludge metal? Synths and dance beats? Harsh noise? They’re all present in measured quantities. I suspect the band’s references to Beyoncé and the grossest pop music were at least partially tongue in cheek, but that doesn’t stop Happiness from being their most outré and adventurous album to date.
4.5 of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
No One Deserves Happiness is due out March 18th on Thrill Jockey Records. Band promo via