The core duo of Chip King (guitar/vocals) and Lee Buford (drums/electronics), better known as the Body, have long taken a more cultured, almost classical approach to their very particular brand of brutally oppressive black metal. Where others rely solely on massively stacked guitars, pummeling drums and all sorts of unintelligible shrieks and grunts, the Body seek to temper these more traditional, expected approaches with more organic sounds that often prove equally as unsettling.

On their 2011 debut release, All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood, they relied on strings and ethereal choirs to create a sense of calm tranquility before erupting in an almost uncomfortable aural violence. Here, they take a similar approach, opening with frequent collaborator Maralie Armstrong’s ethereal vocals on “Wanderings.” Building through atypical harmonies and atonal dissonance, they land on what has now become something of a trademark juxtaposition of darkness and light. It’s this approach that helps make the Body surprisingly accessible for a group whose vocalist sounds like someone being simultaneously drowned and straggled while screaming through sandpaper for help from the bottom of a long forgotten well somewhere in the forests of Eastern Europe.

“For You” is an unrelenting assault with little discernible instrumentation aside from the aforementioned vocals buried in what can only be a metal garbage can full of rocks being used as a salt shaker by some enormous, subterranean deity conjured from the seventh circle of hell processed through a whole lot of warped electronics. It’s brutal without the usual tempering beauty. Mercifully, it is also the album’s shortest track, bleeding over into the violently plodding “Hallow/Hollow.” Here, the guitars are massive enough to fill countless voids, the drums enough to shake the earth. Were it not such an integral part of both the black metal aesthetic and, specifically, the Body’s sound, King’s vocals would come across as almost comical when freed from the confines of the sonic morasses in which they tend to thrive.

But there is more of an ambient, measured approach to No One Deserves Happiness, one that relies as much on the overwhelming mixture of sounds as the effectiveness of silence and space. With its crawling, plodding tempos eventually giving way to an unsettlingly sing-song choral arrangement struggling to break through the percussive firestorm, “Hallow/Hollow” serves as the embodiment of the Body’s aesthetic, capturing everything about their sound, which is simultaneously appealing and off-putting. If the Body can have an “accessible” album, No One Deserves Happiness would be it.

Given their claim to wanting to create the “grossest pop album of all time,” they manage to temper their more extreme tendencies with moments of sheer beauty, a rarity within the genre. Because of this, what’s perhaps the most interesting element of their sound is the subtle variations inherent in their basic black metal guitar/drums set up. Through the walls of sound, they are able to create enough differentiation between tracks that, unlike many of their peers, the album feels like a cohesive set of well-defined pieces rather than one long, blurred sonic morass.

Supplementing the pounding drums with skittering, metallic-sounding electronic drums helps temper some of this, and the effective use of Armstrong’s voice – on epically gorgeous “Adamah” especially – paired with Assembly of Light Choir helps to make the album a bleak, fascinating exploration. The Body are still not for the faint of heart, but, with No One Deserves Happiness, they toe the line between impenetrable and accessible more than anywhere else in their brutally oppressive catalog.

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