You’re walking down Brunswick Street on a warm Thursday night in Brisbane, it’s late and the less savoury Valley public are loitering in full force. You walk past the train station, the 7-11 and cross the road to find a little venue nestled cosily between two strip clubs. You pay the $35 entrance fee and descend the stairs, illuminated by little strips of blue LED lights, to find a large basement, its brick walls semi-whitewashed and occasionally sporting a reprint poster for a classic hardcore show. To the right is a small but well-stocked bar, a crowd sporting the vaguely vagrant, beard, beanie and black shirt look that hints at something heavy and, just next to the stairs, are four middle-aged Japanese guys sound-checking on a stage that can’t be bigger than five by seven metres. This is Church of Misery.
The band are all wearing flared jeans. The bassist, Tatsu Mikami, has lowered his Rickenbacker to a sub-knee altitude and is throwing both his hands in the air; giving the crowd the horns and proudly displaying the words “Black Sabbath” across his chest. Hideki Fukasawa, who has discarded his flowery velvet vest in aid of setting up his synthesizer, turns to the beckoning hoard of doom metal fans, yells “BRIS-BANE-AH!” and then starts dancing (a talented display of Mick Jagger-like stage strutting) to the opening chords of ‘Brother Bishop’, an ode to American serial killer Gary Heidnik.
Such is Church of Misery’s subject matter; every song features the visceral acts of a violent sociopath penned with a Cannibal Corpse-like level of brutality and half sung, half screeched by Fukasawa. The band plays chunky, classic-metal sounding riffs with plenty of distortion and funky wah to round out a sound that crosses genres between generic doom metal and psychedelic stoner rock with some blues, jazz and early hardcore punk thrown in.
An average Church of Misery song will go from a lurching doom waltz, to a blues infused bass solo (while Fukasawa mandatorily ejects himself from the stage and runs around somewhere in the audience), to psychedelic musical havoc raining down from Ikuma Kawabe’s flying V. Meanwhile, Junji Narita sits in the back hammering at his Pearl kit with force so that every snare hit sounds, rather appropriately, like the chop of an axe. All combined, a Church of Misery gig is a hall of echo-y, crunchy, timeless stoner groove metal performed by a quartet of lanky, long haired Japanese troubadours, head-banging, gyrating and screaming about murder.
Church of Misery are weird and they are brilliant and they are definitely worth the $35 entry fee. They aren’t a big band; they don’t command packed out venues filled with fans and few people will know they exist and that they’re touring (for the first time in Australia). Their music is individually amazing and played by a band that wants share it. Get a beer up front at their show and Fukasawa will gladly clink glasses with you mid-song before downing his, screaming and jumping over you with full force to engage with the rest of the fans. Don’t miss this band; they need you and your ears need them.