Label: Malignant Records
By all the gods that never were, this is bleak. Utterly crushing, the sound that Sewer Goddess unleash on Painlust best described in terms that might sound like hyperbole, but are completely apt. This is the sound of pain and death; of not just darkness but a total absence of light; of that metaphorical boot stamping on a human face. Even within the realms of the genres their sound draws from – chiefly, the slower, suffocating parts of death and doom metal; and the harshest side of industrial, with a few aspects of noise thrown in for good measure – this is oppressive and heavy. Painlust is not for the faint of heart, but for those who are willing to stare in to the abyss, it is a compelling, cathartic listen.
There’s no disguising the depths of pain on show here. Opener “Plague Axis” is an exercise is mounting tension that never lets up, with rhythms that sound like collapsing machinery and deep, unsettling drones that come across like a ceaseless cry of loss. There is no release until the song fades to an end in a mass of distorted, alien vocals. Sewer Goddess may add more human elements to their sound on the following tracks (such as clearer vocals and more obvious instrumentation), but there is no drop in the atmosphere – everything is still black, just in different shades. Heavy, percussive rhythms combine with harsh guitars, as well as ominous synths and drones, all of which is strong enough in its own right. But that’s to say nothing of the vocals, which really hammer home just how bleak proceedings here are, and add some much-needed humanity to the songs. The mournful, moaning proclamations of “My Grave” ensure there is no mistaking the bands intent, whilst the cries in “Black Meat And Bones” are decidedly uncomfortable and honest, their mixture of hate and pain complimenting the Godflesh-esque stomp of the song perfectly. Different vocal styles are used throughout the record, but they all have the effect of making it clear to the listener that this is music made by humans, full of feeling and emotion – something that a lot of extreme music of all genres and styles can fail to do, especially when industrial and electronic elements are used. It’s much to the credit of Sewer Goddess that they don’t fall in to this trap.
Likewise, it is much to their credit that Painlust remains such a chilling, haunting listen throughout its whole duration and after multiple plays. Extreme music can often fall victim to a kind of overload, where the listener becomes desensitized to repeated blows to the stomach/head/heart. Painlust hits that sweet spot where each listen is just as disturbing and challenging as the first, daring the listener to look away from the horrors on display for just one moment. But it should be clear that those horrors are not some fiction, some nightmare scenario played out for nihilistic entertainment. Everything on display here has the uncomfortable sense of being real, of this being a record where the musicians involved have opened up their souls and let the pain, darkness, and fear there run riot. Thankfully, there is a sense of catharsis too, of horrors confronted and, if not dispelled, then certainly pushed far enough away to survive for just that bit longer. But despite this, Painlust is not a comfortable ride – and it was never meant to be. It’s not pretty, it’s not safe, but it certainly is effective and very compelling.