Review: Sewer Goddess – Painlust
In under half an hour, Sewer Goddess‘s sophomore album Painlust leaves an impression like a wrecking ball through a treehouse.
Painlust bears impressive fruit when stacked against the band’s 2010 debut, With Dirt You Are One. These songs sing of their antecedents in groups like Godflesh or Eyehategod without stooping to rote idolatry, forcing onto the former’s template of repetitive percussion and alternating yelled and droning vocals the latter’s ferociously overpowering stew of toxic guitars and venomous shrieks. But for all the divergent weirdness of each composition, an unmistakeable thread of catchiness keeps the songs–even at their most droning–in the listener’s head for days.
It’s this sense of true songcraft that keeps the album together. A sense of impending collapse permeates the album; where lesser bands may be content to simply craft lazy blankets of warm sound with which to envelop the listener like a blanket, Sewer Goddess’s crushing heaviness is a thick fog of heat forcing its way down its audience’s throats. As drums crash, guitars unfold and vocals peal out as if attempting escape the clamor, everything is held together by the tight glue of the songwriting. This trait existed in nascent form on With Dirt You Are One, but on Painlust it’s a stronger, more emphatic beast allowed to flex its muscles.
The album’s first track, “Plague Axis,” is appropriately ominous and bleak, building for four and a half minutes and neatly illustrating what makes Sewer Goddess’ tense drones and somber cadences so darkly compelling, but it’s with the arrival of “My Grave” that the album proper gets underway. For the next five tracks, vocalist and primary songwriter Kristen Rose croaks her litanies of bilious hate over churning riffs and crawling percussion.
The album is hardly one-note, though; each song has a definite identity that shines through the muck. Clever twists like the choked harmonics and creeping synths of “Black Meat and Bones” are enough to grant the listener pause even in the midst of their annihilation, while the glacial stomp of “Get the Rope” makes clear the track’s intent to simply pound the listener into dust.
Never ones to operate without finesse, though, Rose and crew match every droning march with a thick, muddy haze of droning synths, echoing screams and ringing guitar chords. Hardly a moment of the album’s runtime is left unfilled by some kind of stuttering drum glitch or filthy, chunky bass line, leaving only the scant few seconds of introductory atmosphere opening most of the tracks as the only breathers. Synths fade in as if from the ether, with each instrument forming around them almost spontaneously, though the band’s attack is too calculated to have been the product of any mere chance.
Painlust is a violent, writhing, cryptic near-masterpiece, an exponential monument of outward growth from the otherwise rather mundane trappings of industrial and sludge, an integral new branch on the ever-expanding noise family tree. Wherever Sewer Goddess take their sound in the future, with the monumental growth displayed since With Dirt You Are One, it can only be forward.