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No God Only Pain : Roads To Serfdom (EP)

Lo-fi, grimy and anarchic stripped-down basics: No God Only Pain's Black/Punk/Doom.

Black/Doom. I've said before that it's maybe the toughest genre of all to call, given that it deals in almost polar opposites. So, what makes it work? A lo-fi Black Metal aesthetic transferred to a Doom tempo, or a Doom riff delivered at blastbeat pace? I've pretty much reached the opinion that either is probably valid, and perhaps it's just a completely subjective viewpoint as to how well any band fulfils the crucial "feels right" criterion.

So, No God Only Pain. Well, it's a nihilistic enough name to get a Doom seal of approval. They've certainly got a lo-fi aesthetic, with distant, grimy, instrumental parts layered into vocals that range from the desperate to the indistinctly muttered. There are riffs that Pentagram would have loved, delivered at varying levels of bpm ("There are slow as well as fast movements", to borrow a quote from Van Der Graaf). And the whole project is driven by Steve Cefala, who's been at least on or over the borders of Doom plenty of times with both Dawning and Pale Existence. So, I reckon it's got the chops to make that cut. And it does feel right, in a seriously underground, zero budget, do-it-anyway kind of context. Feel free to disagree with my reasoning, but I'm going to call it a Black/Doom release and review it on that basis.

As a fairly brief - 22 minutes and change - EP, it's not exactly an exercise in endurance to give 'Roads To Serfdom' an experimental hearing, during which you will hear both extremes of the aforementioned Black/Doom opposites, and a fair amount of stuff that falls somewhere in between, open to interpretation. There's an obvious conceptual link in the representation of each track as a separate journey on a different route: it wouldn't surprise me if there was some deeper significance to the choice of highways - though I don't know enough US history or geography to be certain, it is one of the hallmarks of Steve's work to embed several layers of meaning into it. The brutally underground musical presentation is a deliberate part of that, its rough-and-ready nature not to be taken as any indication it hasn't been thoroughly thought through beforehand.

'Roads...' opens on the most Black Metal offering, 'Cannon Fodder', confounded slightly by a rasping clean vocal but otherwise thrashing along at a fairly ferocious pace and leaving no doubt that the EPs going for that 'one take, live no overdubs' feel. Or that the recording is old-school garage-quality, at best. It's followed by a quite convincing impression of The Cramps covering Pentagram, a lengthy workout that alternates a Deveikuth-style slow and oppressive funereal noise with galloping Post-punk riffs, a piece that kicks off in tribally-rhythmic Southern Death Cult-does-Doom fashion, and exits on another of those Pentagram-ish riffing rock grooves.

If that mixed bag of influences and comparisons sounds like a recipe for chaos, it - perhaps surprisingly - doesn't come across that way. It just gives the feel that the band aren't particularly limiting themselves to any particularly rigid boundaries, as long as the results fit in with their darkly bitter mood, bleak black humour and heavy underground rock sound. There's no showy virtuoso musicianship, just stripped-down basics thrown together with a certain anarchic Punk gleefulness, and it nonetheless adds up to being more than just the sum of those parts, and deeper than it first appears. The rough production may well put some people off , as may the difficulty of really pinning it down to any consistent genre or soundalike, but its heart and spirit are firmly rooted in the right place - keeping the Black Flag flying, if you like.

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Highway 101 - Cannon Fodder
2. Highway 280 - Lick The Claw
3. Highway 380 - Roads To Serfdom
4. Highway 405 - Servitudo Completum
5. Highway 580 - Who Forgives God?

Duration : Approx. 22 minutes

Visit the No God Only Pain bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-10-23 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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