The formula is the same as it's always been for the Church: pick some serial killers, write some lyrics, add some sampled police and television reports and rock the fuck out. Since their inception they've changed in sound and style; "Houses" finds them continuing along the path charted out on "The Second Coming." Everything is way in the red, the songs are faster and more intense and vocalist Hideki Fukasawa absolutely rips his lungs apart. I doubt the guy is even going to be able to speak in a few years, he's shredding his throat so raw with this band. As impassioned as his delivery is it's a little one-dimensional and sometimes i miss the old vocalist-his incredibly laconic, syrupy stoned always clean vocals made a nice dreamy counterpoint to the tales of violence. But that was Church of Misery phase one, when they were more concerned with nodding off than rocking out. This is phase two, where it's tearing-faces-off time every hour of every day.
The songs are deceptively involved. There aren't many riffs or movements per song (except for "Blood Sucking Freak", which is about mentally disturbed "Vampire Killer" Richard Chase, where the song cycles through quite a few disparate riffs to illustrate Chase's volatile and nonsensical mindscape) and it seems like you've heard them all before, but if you listen more closely you hear all sorts of little flourishes and intricacies and begin to see just how much outright musicianship these guys are putting into everything. It's a consummate display of prowess done with extreme temperance and subtlety and reinforces just how good of a band this really is.
Everyone sweats it out hard, but the real star of the album is bassist Tatsu Mikami. The guy never stops. He runs his bass through a shitload of effects and basically comes off like a "Live at Leeds" era John Entwistle, always moving, holding everything down while essentially playing a 48 minute solo at the same time. Geezer Butler would be proud, no doubt.
Also keeping with tradition, Church of Misery turn in one classic cover, this time thrashing through "Master Heartache" by Sir Lord Baltimore. Jesus, what an obscure fucking pick. Just another example of the actual rock pedigree lurking behind this glorious, indulgent mess plate of rock stew. Grab your damn fork.