After five years of relative silence since their second album, Ritual Abuse, Richmond doom quartet Cough has returned with an album well worth the wait. Recorded with the guiding hand of Electric Wizard’s Jus Oborn both in studio and as the producer, Still They Pray is an album that takes each of Cough’s most vital elements and expands them to their most potent and psychedelic forms. While it’s hard to say how much of this is on the producer, it’s also evident that Cough’s songwriting skills are at their peak.
With such demand after all this time, Cough could have easily churned out something lumbering and dense and still appeased the masses well enough. Instead of taking the easy route, though, Cough’s ambition takes flight; songs like the familiarly venomous “Possession” are counterbalanced by the sun-scorched and weary melancholy of “Let it Bleed,” which could almost be called a ballad if it didn’t dissolve into something so gnarly by its filthy end. The balance of hefty doom and bloody rock makes this album feel like a tug-of-war between the dismal low of opiates and the painful highs of psychedelics gone terribly wrong.
While the nods to producer Oborn’s own band are almost too easy to make here, Cough manages to pay homage to the spirit of bands like Electric Wizard without becoming derivative. On “The Wounding Hours” and “Haunter of the Dark,” chords stretch nearly endlessly beneath solos that break through the gloom like shafts of light catching dust in a dark room. It’s instantly recognizable, yet feels fresh and new. Perhaps it’s the time away from the spotlight or renewed vigor after hospitalization and “bouts of minor insanity,” as the press release states, but Cough conveys their sense of exhaustion in the most present and gripping way possible.
Noisey was able to get a couple of quick questions in with guitarist David Cisco in preparation for the June 3 release date of Still They Pray through Relapse Records. Listen to the stream below and read on.
Noisey: Still They Pray is by far the most ambitious and diverse record you've released so far. To what do you attribute this new expansion?
David Cisco: A benefit of waiting six years between albums is that we had a large amount of riffs and song material to choose from. We intentionally chose songs that both work to unify the album but also kept the album interesting as you move through it.
How have the last few years treated the band?
A lot has changed since then. We're slightly more mentally balanced now...slightly. We've always drawn inspiration from the shit life throws at us. Without getting into too much detail the themes of life and death weave through this record pretty substantially.
You managed to snag the mighty Jus Oborn to record and produce Still They Pray. How was the recording process? How do you feel he impacted the record's overall sound?
Recording with Jus was extremely easy. Our visions for this record came together perfectly seeing eye to eye through the entire process. The album has a certain cosmic undertone that developed over the course of the recording. I think it's something that just happened naturally.
In the lyrics and song titles on this record, the word "torture" comes up multiple times. Is there an intended recurring theme here?
“Masters of Torture” was a song written years ago inspired by a few days spent in jail during our first full US tour. Torture in itself isn't the theme but more like a piece of the overall concept. The album title/concept is both hopeful and hopeless depending on how you interpret it. Defining it would be boring.
Ben Handelman is doomed on Twitter.