Review: Theologian – Pain of the Saints

1869
149
Share:

“A breakdown in the unity of state and church has altered the context in which blasphemy might be understood. Rather than viewing blasphemous libel as intrinsically linked through the Ecclesiastical courts within the unity of State and Church, the emphasis has shifted to the individual in society whose freedom of artistic expression is constrained instead by the secular laws of defamation and obscenity.”

-Christopher Braddock, “Blasphemy and the art of the political and devotional”

from Negotiating the Sacred II: Blasphemy and Sacrilege in the Arts (2008)

Lee Bartow, formerly of Navicon Torture Technologies, forms the core of Theologian, along with his frequent collaborators Matt Slagle and Fade Kainer of Batillus and Statiqbloom. Pain of the Saints also features a slew of guests, from Eric Morgan of A Pale Horse Named Death to Jessica Way of Worm Ouroboros and Christiana Key of Delphic Oracle to Joan Hacker of Factoria and Heroine. Bartow himself calls Pain of the Saints his “Anti-Theist manifesto,” a fitting title for such an obstreperous onslaught.

Theologian craft monolithic but intensely detailed music from huge sheets of sound, sine waves themselves ballooning in size to flesh out the frequency range. But the sonic fortitude on display is far from un-nuanced; Bartow and company always take care to let ring a core emotional truth of sorts. Said truth is often a brittle, fragile beauty not simply conferred onto the listener but one that has to be earned through the trials of the music. Pain of the Saints in particular seems more devoid of “hooks” (whatever that means in Theologian’s universe) than any other entry in the group’s considerable discography, forcing the listener to work harder than ever before.

Click here to watch Theologian’s “Piss and Jism”. It is very, very, very NSFW.

But to what end? In Bartow’s own words, “it was common to imprison, torture, execute anyone with ideas that ran contrary to what the Church dictated, to brand them as a heretic or a witch, or an apostate, and then end their lives using some of the most brutal methods humans have ever conceived. Then, the ultimate hypocrisy: to turn around and dub these victims of the Church as saints, centuries after having murdered them.” Pain of the Saints‘ biblical subject matter certainly occupies a territory more epic (or perhaps holy?) in nature than the group’s prior focus on sex and sadism, but what does it accomplish?

The controversy-generating power of art is by and large a thing of the past. It becomes increasingly more difficult for an artist to offend an audience’s sensibilities when only a click away is a myriad of execution videos ready to be broadcast by the worldwide media. Today’s information media’s 24-hour fixation on suffering and brutality makes for stiff competition for pseudo-transgressive artists like Swallowing Bile (a topic my colleague Edward briefly touched on here).

But this is far from a bad thing. Art is now free from the need to create controversy to draw attention. In Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”), German cultural critic Walter Benjamin argued that the ubiquity of art caused by technology liberated it from a ritual role and allowed it to take on a political one. Emancipated from the shackles of a need for controversy, art could be judged not on the potential headlines it could generate but on the political, aesthetic and, most importantly, artistic grounds on which it was created. Over time, those seeking attention will look ever more out of touch.

Benjamin’s thought process was clearly ahead of his time; first published in 1936, Das Kunstwerk… predated the internet’s incredible power for assigning controversy (real or not) to art. His words ring truer now than ever. In the mainstream, once-hotly-debated artists like Kanye West, Eminem or Lady Gaga (too dated a reference?) can no longer generate buzz around mildly offensive song titles, lyrical slurs or outrageous costumes, respectively. A harsher lens is focused on the music rather than the circumstances surrounding it.

But Bartow’s intent is obviously far more mature than simply to scandalize his audience. The album’s press release calls it a “sonic diatribe exposing hypocrisy within the church and a broader questioning of what sainthood means.” Pain of the Saints is clearly meant as a critique, or perhaps a deconstruction of what Bartow perceives as the Church’s sanctimonious nature, but without a lyrics sheet it’s impossible for the listener to know just how exactly this critique functions. As such this review will try to focus instead on the music presented.

So on that note: how does the music of Pain of the Saints fare?

In a word, it’s breathtaking. Much of the album’s two discs is devoted to Theologian’s utterly singular brand of dark, heavy death industrial, as shown on tracks like the above “Piss and Jism.” After expanding naturally outward from Navicon Torture Technologies’ sound, Theologian has grown very much into its own entity, comparable perhaps in concept to Gnawed or Human Larvae but unmatched in character.

The rawer, noisier tracks can be difficult to digest, especially in larger doses, but they are prevented from becoming monotonous by atmospheric standouts like “Gravity,” “Deprivation,” or “Blessed Prey.” Unlike some of their previous albums, the Theologian on Pain of the Saints is largely unconcerned with rhythm, but hardly in a cavalier manner. This is essential sound, not in the sense that it is a “must-hear” work per se, but because it is essential, as in “the essence of.” The conceit of Pain of the Saints is easier communicated in architectural terms: stylized and detailed though it may be, the album is primarily a pillar, a solid, material structure supporting great weight with subtle, unobtrusive flair.

My primary complaint about the album would be its lopsidedness. Many of the best songs on the album are relegated to the second disc, where impatient listeners may never find them. Of course, impatient listeners have no place here; simply put, Pain of the Saints is made for the deepest kind of listening. Still, with so many standouts on the second half of the album its a wonder some weren’t migrated to the first just for balance’s sake.

Clocking in at nearly three hours of music, Pain of the Saints is an absolute monster of a record. The length isn’t even an issue; anyone considering putting it on knows what they’re getting into and is ready. After a number of already-stellar releases, it’s possible Theologian have finally released their magnum opus.

NO FLUSH

Pain of the Saints is out now on Malignant Records. Buy it digitally here or physically here, and like Theologian and Malignant on Facebook.

(Photo VIA)

Did you dig this? Take a second to support Toilet ov Hell on Patreon!
  • The Satan Ov Hell

    “A breakdown in the unity of state and church” …did someone say breakdown?

    -SCREAMS BREAKDOWN WHILE PLAYING A BREAK DOWN-

    Please all enjoy my new melodic metalcore song

  • I checked out “Piss and Jism” (not at work obvs). There are a lot of really cool things going on with it. Also, I enjoyed your thoughts on “controversy-generating power of art is by and large a thing of the past”. It is a little funny that a piece like “Piss Christ” from the 80s still riles folks up for protests and threats to defund the arts.

    • Yeah, like I said, Das Kunstwerk was written almost 80 years ago but the internet and its effect on people has made everything in it even more relevant than at the time of its writing. Check it out if you haven’t read it, there’s some rill cool stuff in it.

  • DDubya.

    This was a fantastic review, based Christian.

  • Tyree

    https://media.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/p/5/005/071/098/06513c7.jpg

    I’m digging the song Christian. I’ll check that NSFW stuff later on in the nude.

    • Stockhausen

      pix pls

      • Tyree

        You asked and you shall receive. It’s Friday too, might get extra weird tonight.

        • DDubya.

          I don’t know how much time I have left on this Earth. I’m gonna get real weird with it.

          • Tyree

            When I was on tour our vocalist told the crowd to get weird. So one guy took out is dick and started windmilling it.

          • Stockhausen

            Well by golly, that is weird indeed.

          • DDubya.

            Was he yelling, “Helicopter, helicopter, helicopter!”?

          • Tyree

            I don’t know, I’m just glad he didn’t teabag my drum kit.

          • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

            Must’ve been magical. I’ve only seen it happen the other way round

          • Tyree

            The drum kit tea-bagging the scrotum?

          • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

            Yes.

          • jajajajaja, roflcopter

        • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

          I want in on this.

  • Shit, dude – 3 hours. I’m getting sick, so I should be able to knock most of this out during my next bowel movement. This review was mind-blowingly good as always.

    • It’s good music to be sick to. Your filth can match the music’s.

      • If Theologian’s output can match mine it must be filthy indeed.

    • Edward/Breegrodamus

      I was laying down (sleeping or not) from 2:30 pm yesterday until roughly 8:30 am this morning. I am glad I am alive.

  • Stockhausen

    Excellent review, Chrustian. Theologian has a special knack for making listeners really, really uncomfortable (Some Things Have to be Endured), and I like what I hear so far. I also want to read that super long-named German book so I can get some edjucation and stop saying things like “super long-named German book.”

  • Mr.CustodialArts

    “In the mainstream, once-hotly-debated artists like Kanye West, Eminem or Lady Gaga…”

    I’M OLD SCHOOL POP HERESY.

    https://betterthanvoodoo.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/tumblr_lnw5v0b97a1qk9oulo1_400.gif?w=377&h=286

    • Janitor Jim Dvggan Svre Wovld

      I love some good shock tactics in rock. WASP, Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson knew how to shock people which makes their heresy and blasphemy so much better

    • Tyree

      I don’t give a damn. This chick had a great voice PLUS she was insane. I love me this whole album. Murder me!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hnqOhuuP70

    • Brouroboris

      *pope heresy

  • Janitor Jim Dvggan Svre Wovld

    This was a good review.

  • Christian is smarter than me.

    • Same : /

        • Stockhausen

          Out of a selection of anything, this is the best.

          • Andrew W.K. is greater than is greater than is greater than is greater than.

      • I’m blushing. You guys are sweet.

        • Edward/Breegrodamus

          Christian, great review. I’d like to get into this monstrosity at some point.

          • It’s a monster so I definitely can’t blame you if you don’t listen until you have three hours to yourself. Also, listen to it right now.

          • Howard Dean

            I’m a lightweight with ADHD. For me, any album over an hour better be damn good. 60+ minute albums tend to be bloated and overlong.

            I don’t think I could manage three straight hours to tackle this warlock.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus

            Swans’ The Seer is an amazing album that clocks in at about two hours, and is best when taken in one sitting (although you don’t have to be sitting). We have talked about albums recently that pushed 70 minutes which added to their ugliness and brutality (DsO, Teitanblood to name a couple) but generally, I too, am a fan of albums in the 40 – 50 minute range.

          • Howard Dean

            I think 40-45 minutes is really a sweet spot for me. Now, there are plenty of albums I love that are 60 minutes, but I think a good percentage of my favorite “complete albums” are 40-45 minutes.

            It’s honestly hard to find the time to sit with a complete album that is over an hour. I mean, one could throw it on as background noise while working, exercising, or something like that, but it’s not the same as just listening.

          • Try listening to M83’s ‘Hurry Up We’re Dreaming’ all the way through. Pretty long and two CDs long, but time simply passes while listening to it.

          • To me, it’s their best one, and captures pretty much every era of Swans (past the industrial noise peroid). Raw as hell album.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus

            I had a lot more time to spend with The Seer than To Be Kind but I totally agree with your assessment.

    • I AM SO DUMB.

    • Mr.CustodialArts

      A deeply intelligent, thoughtful, informative piece for sure. That being said…I’ll spend MY 3 hours listening to FAIR WARNING 6 times. CHRISTIAN LOVES TEH GUITARS.
      http://www.playitloudblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/vanhalengif_350.gif

  • This is something that I like.

  • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

    Whoah, ToiletOvSophistication. This is a review about which I would say: “I would certainly say certain things about this review.”

    • Howard Dean

      This is a total non sequitur, but I was just reading the comments from an old article, and needed to share this gif that was originally posted by Randall Thor. It’s just that good.

      http://i.imgur.com/Wp3Bhhj.gif

      • That poor luchadorito…

        • Howard Dean

          I know, that must have hurt like a motherfucker.

        • Pagliacci is Kvlt/Not Sludge

          On the bright side, this led me to discover that “luchadora” is a pretty sweet (and NSFW) GIS word.

        • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

          Luchadorito, to me it sounds like. Man eat some Lucky-Doritos.

      • Janitor Jim Dvggan Svre Wovld

        That’s just terrible. Why would someone punt a little person who is in a monkey suit like they’re a soccer ball?

        • Howard Dean

          Cuz wrasslin’!

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan Svre Wovld

            That does make sense. The lucha libre people do have weird ideas on occasion.

      • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

        Oh. Man.

      • I believe that was me who posted that, lol. Either way, it’s a classic! And I’ll toss this one your way, since I haven’t posted any bouncyness in quite a while.

        http://i.imgur.com/xagUDzj.gif

        • Howard Dean

          Oh hey!

  • Guacamole Jim

    This is an exceptional review. You never cease to impress me, and to feel incompetent in the extent of my vocabulary.

    “In the mainstream, once-hotly-debated artists like Kanye West, Eminem or Lady Gaga (too dated a reference?) can no longer generate buzz around mildly offensive song titles, lyrical slurs or outrageous costumes, respectively. A harsher lens is focused on the music rather than the circumstances surrounding it.”

    What would be your take, then, on the controversy that surrounded “Blurred Lines”? It would almost seem that there are still things that can generate significant controversy (the lyrics as well as the video for the above song) when they’re a hot-button issue in the mainstream. Are the artists you mentioned no longer controversial because the mainstream is no longer able to be controversial, or because what they’re talking about/doing that once would have had people up in arms is no longer what the public is concerned about? It would seem, given the uproar surrounding “Blurred Lines,” that pop music is indeed able to generate a significant amount of controversy.

    • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

      What is ‘Blurred Lines’?

      • Guacamole Jim
      • DDubya.

        I know you want it.

        • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

          I probably do.

          • DDubya.

            Cuz you’re a good girl.

          • Guacamole Jim
          • Ugh. What a dingus. Dude is like Dingus Khan.

          • Stockhausen

            One dingus to rule them all.

          • Guacamole Jim

            I hate the way his little flap of poofy hair in the front jiggles.

            http://i.imgur.com/g8l5LV1.gif

          • It’s hypnotic

          • Or Dangus Young.

          • Tyree
          • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

            I just checked. Man is this controversy a stupid one. (I mean I can see where it comes from, but talk about Overkill)

          • DDubya.

            I think it was more about the not-subtle rape overtones than the nudity.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus

            What about when Stone Temple Pilots released a mainstream song that had way less subtle rapey overtones?

          • What song was that?

          • Edward/Breegrodamus
          • DDubya.

            I don’t know that I ever heard this song. EVERYONE heard Blurred Lines.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus

            I didn’t think Blurred Lines was as rapey as everyone thought, honest.

          • Guacamole Jim

            To be entirely honest, I didn’t either. I get where people are coming from, though. I was going to write an article about the whole thing, but decided it was too touchy a subject. I think the problem was less that the song was deliberately rape-y, and more that A) Thicke is a douche, B) Rape is a hot button issue, C) His douchebaggy lyrics were much too close to the line being discussed right now, and D) the song was mega popular.

            Compare it to the Christina Aguilera tune, “Your Body” which is waaaaay more sexually explicit, includes the line “I know you want it” (the trigger line for most people), and was praised for being “fun”.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cfCgLgiFDM

          • Wait…she’s put out music after the 90s? Ugh. I fucking hate America.

          • Guacamole Jim

            Dude, her voice is killer. Fanboy reporting in. (HELL YES I SURE WOULD!)

          • Edward/Breegrodamus

            “I know you want it” =/= I’m going to rape you, imo.

            I think people’s levels of reactionary PC-ism are far more disturbing than the lyrics of a Robin Thicke song.

            Maybe Christian got away with it because she’s a woman and women aren’t viewed to be rapists nearly as heavily.

          • Guacamole Jim

            But that opens up a huge can of worms in regards to gender dynamics that I don’t want to have to address. Hence why I scrapped the article haha.

          • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

            Not only was this not as popular a song, but also this is sung by a woman. This particular thing has never raised the same levels of controversy when the “badmouthing” is done by a woman. So that’s E)

          • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

            I have a hard time seeing it. I see it somehow now that it has been explained to me. I remain unsure, who thinks of rape first when they You Know You Want It. Honestly strikes me a little similar to the folk going “every man is a potential rapist”

          • Howard Dean

            Are you serious?! This song was all over the radio in the 90’s, and is still playing on a lot of classic stations today.

          • DDubya.

            It doesn’t ring a bell, honestly. Obviously my experience is not indicative of everyone’s.

          • Guacamole Jim

            I’m with you. Never heard it before.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus

            I don’t know exactly how old HD is but I am a bit older than both of you guys. That STP song was played everywhere around me for a couple of years.

          • Howard Dean

            Seriously, around me that song was huge, too. And it stirred a lot of discussion at the time.

            STP were huge in the mid-to-late 90s. I a lot of people dislike them (a lot of it is misdirected angst towards Scott Weiland, who is admittedly kind of an ass), but I actually enjoy most of STP’s discography.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan Svre Wovld

            I like Scott Weiland’s other projects and I love STP but now that Chester Bennington of Linkin Park is the singer of STP I don’t like them. It’s not STP without Weiland.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan Svre Wovld

            The songs of theirs that are played on the radio near me are Vasoline and Interstate Love Song. I hear Sex Type Thing occasionally.

          • Lacertilian

            Radio here plays those 3 STP tracks almost exclusively, promptly causing all radios in my vicinity to be switched immediately.

          • Yep, you couldn’t avoid it when I was in middle school.

          • FeelTheDarkness

            II have never heard the song because I am blissfully ignorant to Top 40 but I have heard Weird Al’s Word Crimes

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            I sir, have not.

          • FeelTheDarkness

            This song was everywhere in the early 90’s. I think it was the debut single from Core

          • Howard Dean

            I believe Sex Type Thing was a “self-aware” rape themed song, though. As in, they were tackling the issue of rape and coercive sex among youngsters.

          • Scrimm

            I stick to Cannibal Corpse when I want to listen to songs about this kind of shit.

          • Brouroboris

            Ha pretty interesting how Rob Thicke shocks the world but CC’s far more shocking/controversial lyrics seemingly dont phase anyone.
            Guess you’re right GuacJim, controversy is a relative based on what the mainstream is not.

          • Well, I think people can tell CC’s lyrics are fantasy based, rather than Thicke coming off like a real life Chester The Molester.

          • Tyree
          • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

            Pretty much what I meant. Haven’t listened to the song, don’t know the lyrics, but man a quick glance made it seem to me as if Thicke was a tool, but a lot of the people getting upset were just flushing dum and mad for no good reason. As if Thicke was the world’s unfairness embodied

          • Guacamole Jim

            The controversy was indeed over the rape vibe people were getting from the song. The music video didn’t help anything.

            Interestingly enough, the video was directed by a woman.

          • i enjoy the sight of a naked woman as much as the next person; but the nudity in that video annoyed me. it had zero purpose.

          • Well, that and the song being a blatant Marvin Gaye ripoff. Last I read, he’s losing that lawsuit big time and threw Pharrell under the bus in the process. The guy’s a major league douche, part of why Paula Patton kicked his dumb ass to the curb.

    • I have to wonder if the subject matter of “Blurred Lines” would have caused ANY reaction, say 15 years ago. This could be the case of contemporary society refusing to accept sexist themes that probably wouldn’t have raised any controversy in the past.

      • Guacamole Jim

        I agree, but to say that the mainstream can’t generate controversy seems incorrect then; rather, what is “controversial” is subjective.

      • Howard Dean

        I don’t think it would have at all. I think the vocal outrage to the scale we see with something like “Blurred Lines” is a definite contemporary phenomenon.

        • DDubya.

          It happened to be released at the same time as the mainstream’s growing awareness of rape culture.

      • Probably not. Hell, look at Eminem’s lyrics, and how huge he was 15 years ago. He’s gotten some flack for his new song talking about raping and beating women, but people are like “oh well, that’s just what he does”.

    • This is an exceptional response. “Blurred Lines” is an interesting case because its intent was clearly not to offend but Robin Thicke’s disgusting pervitude got in the way. Like I said, “over time, those seeking attention will look ever more out of touch.” The song wasn’t meant to exploit controversial themes to drum up sales like some of the artists I mentioned, but rather Thicke is just a sexist tool and no one thought to censor him. Like Joe said, society has (fortunately) come a long way and we don’t stand for that, but the controversy arose from unintentional exploitation, so I would count that as being in a different league.

      • Guacamole Jim

        Interesting. I agree. The fact that the controversy was unintentional does place it in a different category entirely.

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    good article–by a sincere individual thinker—no “agenda–>actual objectity
    ———
    salute to the rising of individual though—
    creating science–and gaining the helm
    of the earth ship–as it travels thru the stars

    all 3 at once–full vol
    http://youtu.be/JJoejNkTp4U

    http://youtu.be/txFWJbHgcMM

    http://youtu.be/x8KBC536EvI

    • Howard Dean
      • Nordling Rites ov Kahlua

        O hai mirror mirror on teh wall.

      • DDubya.

        Did you stumble upon justneckbeardthings today?

        • Howard Dean

          No, I literally google searched for “atheist neckbeard meme.” I’ve never heard of justneckbeardthings before.

          • DDubya.

            It’s a veritable treasure trove.

          • Guacamole Jim

            I need in on this. Did not it was a thing/10

          • Lacertilian

            Could it be that he is the best theist troll ever disguised?

        • I’m really afraid to search for that in Google

          • DDubya.

            All the ones I’ve seen are SFW

  • The End
    • DDubya.

      You alright, dude?

    • Howard Dean

      Seriously, dude. If something is majorly wrong, you need to seek help. We are a pretty tightknit community that has each other’s backs and likes to have fun, but we are not trained psychological professionals. There’s only so much we can do for an anonymous commenter. I would strongly suggest you speak to someone.

      • DDubya.

        There’s only so much internet bros can do.

    • Janitor Jim Dvggan Svre Wovld

      Are you feeling alright? If you aren’t, I suggest speaking to someone who is a trained psychological professional. I know with what you’re feeling but I can’t help because I’m not a professional.

    • if one were to combine the collective knowledge and experience of all us turds, he/she could solve any world problem. what’s on your mind?

  • Tyree

    Hey Remember that song in True Lies when Jamie Lee Curtis is stripping down? I love that scene and song. John Hiatt >>>>>>>.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyNun3IUoz4
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mBimknk18I

  • DDubya.

    Speaking of art and censorship. A professor at my university’s art was removed from a gallery in New Mexico. The art depicted prayer cards with homosexual sex acts. From what I can tell, the display was actually removed because children saw it rather than censorship. The story got me thinking about how the digital age has fundamentally changed the way art has spread, and protecting minors from things deemed questionable is infinitely more difficult than it used to be. I’m against censorship, but I think if I was a parent, I’d prefer my kids not view certain things until I can help them put what they’re seeing into context. I think your post ties nicely into my thoughts lately.

  • BLXKKBEXRD

    This shits right up my alley, huh?

  • Pagliacci is Kvlt/Not Sludge

    That beat for the first two minutes reminds me of the sound your tires make on the expansion joints on interstate highways. It lulled me into a long distance driving stupor, and that’s a cool thing.

  • Brock Samson

    I, the Swedish murder machine, approve of this

  • Good article, bro!

  • that track you posted was great! now pursuing more by this band..
    BTW, that “very, very, very NSFW” video you linked, it’s on YouTube. how can it be so NSFW??

    • See for yourself (it’s a naked lady peeing on a guy in a mask).

      • oh i’ll definitely watch it at home! problem is, work is another 1.5 hours, then i gotta swell to the jammiez. won’t be home til like 8

  • Virgil the Ghost Poet

    Their record label has this and Meleina’s Mask for pre-order. A lot of us on facebook enjoyed this. I’m going to order them next month. Looking forward to these.

  • CT-12

    Great review Christian, and definitely a very interesting sound from this band. The song you posted was nice and chilled out, but I don’t know if I could do 3 hours of it, either way, good job mayne!