RVA #25: Cough is one of RVA metal’s best kept and sludgiest secrets

by | Aug 1, 2016 | METAL / PUNK / THRASH

Since 2005, Cough has been making doom metal for the true fanatics, the kind of true darkness that wigs out the uninitiated: their music is stupendously heavy, undeniably misanthropic, tinged with the occult, and really, really slow.

Since 2005, Cough has been making doom metal for the true fanatics, the kind of true darkness that wigs out the uninitiated: their music is stupendously heavy, undeniably misanthropic, tinged with the occult, and really, really slow.

This article was featured in RVAMag #25: Summer 2016. You can read all of issue #25 here or pick it up at local shops around RVA right now.

As such, they have remained one the Richmond music scene’s best-kept secrets. Despite the somewhat insular nature of their craft, in 2010 the band joined the roster of Relapse Records, a well-known indie label that puts out extreme music of all kinds, including records from Richmond natives Inter Arma and Windhand. Between their first EP, Kingdom, and their Relapse Records debut, Ritual Abuse, quite a lot shifted. In 2007, Cough’s first full-length album Sigillum Luciferi was released. The following year, lead vocalist Chris Kirby left the band, leaving bassist Parker Chandler and guitarist David Cisco to fill the void. Chandler’s retches and Cisco’s desperate yells ably replace Kirby’s similarly-styled vocals, while also providing a natural ebb and flow between vocal styles, creating a uniquely miserable sonic palette.

In the same year that Cough released Ritual Abuse, guitarist Brandon Marcey (also of heavy psych-rockers Sinister Haze) joined the band, adding an extra edge to a band that already sounded full. In the years following Brandon’s entrance into the band, Cough produced a handful of longer songs, one of which showed up on a 2013 split with the more mellow (but still heavy) Windhand. Chandler joined that band the same year and since then, Windhand has gained more and more popularity on a national scale — the band recently toured with stoner metal legends Sleep — while Cough has remained more shadowy, popping out to play shows every once in a while.

That’s why the release of this year’s Still They Pray is so exciting — Cough is finally in the red-tinted spotlight again. For this most recent effort, the band teamed with doom icon Jus Osborn of Electric Wizard to record their most dynamic record to date. Parker Chandler graciously took time out his days on the road to answer my questions regarding the process that led to Still They Pray, working with Jus Osborn, and future shows.

Still They Pray has a noticeably different feel from Ritual Abuse. Would you attribute that to your lineup change? If not, to working with Jus Osborn?

It’s a combination of factors including Brandon and Jus. We did almost everything different this time around.

“Let It Bleed” and “Shadow of the Torturer” are a bit different for Cough. Was Brandon’s time in Sinister Haze an influence on the sound of those songs? What about the title track — had you guys been wanting to do an acoustic song for a while?

Brandon does a lot to add that psychedelic “freak out” vibe. Sinister Haze has allowed him to experiment fully and cultivate his own sound. The acoustic song is something we’ve been kicking around for a while. We’re all big fans of Americana/country/folk/blues and we’ve always been looking for a way to merge that interest with our heavier side. Thematically, they’re not so different.

The organ work on “The Wounding Hours” is powerful. How did the collaboration with Count Orlof come about?

There isn’t much to say about the Count. We weren’t present for the recording of the organ track, but his addition brought an already depressive song to a new low. There was nothing we could say once it was done.

How was working with Jus? Did you learn anything interesting from him, in terms of recording, touring, or otherwise?

We heard a lot of stuff that we shouldn’t repeat. He did teach us some important lessons about recording live that helped us preserve the “soul” of the music. Elvis came up a lot in conversation.

Can you tell us a bit about the gear you’re working with now? The guitar sounds on the new album have clarity, but are still nice and dirty.

It’s almost all the same gear we’ve always had, but recorded under drastically different circumstances. The recording was done live, straight to 1″ tape, in a garage outside of town. No digital editing or manipulation. There’s only one guitar track per guitarist, not including overdubs for leads. Jus taught us that multiple guitar tracks, in addition to eating up valuable track space, can smooth out the guitar tone. Maybe that’s where the clarity comes from.

It’s been a few years since Cough has released an album. What was the process behind the creation of Still They Pray like? I imagine Parker’s involvement in Windhand, and Brandon joining the band were factors in the development and recording of new material.

Yeah, life can get in the way. Just getting all of us in the same room together was difficult and then getting us to focus once we were all there was another challenge. Many times, we just had to do what we could with whoever showed up. As a result, a lot of our writing was done separately and then pieced together in the months leading up to the recording.

It looks like you have some European festivals lined up, and Windhand is touring currently. Does Cough have any plans for a U.S. tour?

We’ve booked a couple fly-ins and a weekend run hitting Philly and NYC, but a full US tour just isn’t possible for us at the moment.

Clara Endres

Clara Endres

Clara is non-binary trans woman (she/they pronouns) that enjoys writing about music, film, and fine food and drink. She is also a musician, mainly playing heavy music, and has an ever-growing collection of plants that she mothers in her spare time.

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