Throughout human history, there have been a remarkable number of cataclysmic events that have changed the future for all. Releasing on June 12 through Greyscale Records, Justice For The Damned’s sophomore LP Pain Is Power, is set to be the next. As the first new music we’ve heard from the five-piece since the release of their 2018 single “No Brother, No Friend”, it’s been an agonisingly long wait for fans of the band. But if it’s any solace, I can tell you right now that it’s been well worth the wait.
With an insidious introduction, the album’s first track and lead single, “Guidance From The Pain”, the band have no doubt foreshadowed what lies beyond in the ensuing 33 minutes. Like the gates of hell opening to receive listeners, so do we enter the brand-new chapter in Justice For The Damned’s journey. The band hit full throttle without hesitation, holding no punches and sparing the eardrums of no listeners. It’s something fans need to quickly adjust to, because the moment that the band kick off they simply do not stop.
As we descend into to the depths of Pain Is Power, it’s obvious how far the Sydneysiders have come, even in the short time since their debut album Dragged Through the Dirt. Undoubtedly working with renowned producer Will Putney has done wonders for the band. Like a shiny red apple covered in sandpaper, the album sounds remarkably clean despite showcasing the harsh extremities that define the band. However, the execution of the instrumentals and vocals portray a new-found level of proficiency from the whole band that is sure to put the five-piece in a league of their own.
The vocal performance of Bobak Rafiee is more diverse than it has ever been, with songs like “Final Cataclysm” showcasing the extremities of his range, while the combination between him and guitarist Nick Adams is better than ever. The mishmash of their vocals is executed perfectly; consistently used to great effect especially in the advent of atmosphere as can be witnessed on “No Peace At The Feet Of Your Master”. As extremely different as the two vocalists are, their coming together is truly something to behold on Pain Is Power.
For all the accolades Rafiee and Adams will receive on their vocals, equal praise is deserving for the instrumental performance on the album. The drumming of Chas Levi is explosive and builds a robust foundation for the rest of the band to erupt from, while the bass work from Ben Mirfin works so cohesively with Levi to develop a daunting underlying layer. From there, the sinister guitar work of Adams and Kieran Molloy do the rest – whether it’s through the searing riffage on “A Crimson Painting” or the enormous guitar fuelled breakdowns that dwell throughout Pain Is Power.
Yet as fitting as the album may be for the OST of any game in the Doom franchise, there is nothing excessive or overdone on the album. Justice For The Damned have exercised just enough restraint to pick their moments, and pick them they have. Where some songs intertwine delicate and intricate riffs, others gush unforgiving breakdowns and full bodied booming sections. For as monotonous and consequently jarring that their genre may be, the band have built a diverse 10 track album with the only commonality between songs being how unrelentingly heavy they are. In no way is it boring or repetitive and on repeat listens I find myself continuously finding new things to be impressed by, a sign of just how dynamic and multilayered Pain Is Power is.
Excitingly, as if that wasn’t enough, the two feature artists on the album prove themselves more than capable of injecting even more wretched life into the album. While fans may have already heard Matt Honeycutt of Kublai Khan fame’s feature on “Guidance From The Pain”, the short lived but venomous feature is fearful and foreboding and a treat to all listeners. Similarly, the addition of Joe Bad of Fit For An Autopsy on “Final Cataclysm” is a dynamic and fitting surprise that is sure to be well received by all fans.
Thematically, Pain Is Power calls for a reset on humanity and finds itself full to the brim with angered and frustrated lyrics. While some seem to maintain a general stance of disgust, others, like “Blister Of The Plague” are direct in their attack. Lines spat with animosity, like “I hope you like the taste of ashes, bring the walls down on the heads of the fascists” define the unreserved approach that Justice For The Damned have towards those who wrong us. Other times, the songs take on more personal meaning with “The House You Built Is Burning” in particular, referring to sometimes having to walk away from those who matter most in order to stop yourself from drowning.
For fans of the band, it’s great to note for all the merit of the band’s debut Dragged Through The Dirt, Pain Is Power remains such a sheer step up from anything that Justice For The Damned have done. There’s unmissable growth in songwriting and production and a greater sense of memorability for the album’s largest moments – undeniably a consequence of the experiences the band have undergone in the past couple years. For all intents and purposes, Pain Is Power is a no-skip album, so listeners beware you’ll need to strap yourself in and maybe come equipped with a second pair of underwear.
Unrivalled in its devastation and relentless in execution, Pain Is Power is set to be the pinnacle of heavy music throughout Australia and international waters. If Justice For the Damned were making ripples before, Pain Is Power is set to cause tsunamis. The band haven’t just regurgitated everything that already worked for them, but they’ve added a myriad of new weapons to their arsenal. Pain Is Power is a desolate, angry and unbridled release, dismissing restraint for something that is raw and blisteringly heavy. Pain Is Power is catastrophic on a biblical scale and has set the benchmark for heavy music moving forward.
Relentless, angry and without restraint – Pain Is Power is everything that heavy music should be. This is a no skip album, and anyone caught skipping songs will be dealt with swiftly and severly.
I genuinely almost threw my knee out losing my cool to some of the breakdowns on the album.