REVIEW: Justice for the Damned – Pain is Power [2020]

Artist: Justice for the Damned

Album: Pain is Power

            Pain is a potent motivator. It’s a mechanism by which people teach right from wrong, enforce conditioning, dissuade from negative habits—its one of very few things that is truly universal In the fashion that it transcends language, dialect and even species. Everyone knows pain—but what they use it for and what they do with it differ enormously from person to person. When it comes to using pain as an impetus for crafting relentlessly heavy beatdown-infused metalcore, look no further than Justice for the Damned’s 2020 full length record, Pain is Power. A thoroughly oppressive display of no-holds-barred aggression, Pain Is Power borrows elements from hardcore, metalcore, beatdown and death metal to create a riff-laden, bone-busting, skin-splitting onslaught that uses an entire armamentarium of heavy music tactics to bewilder and brutalize the listener. Energetic and eviscerating, Pain is Power sees Justice for the Damned stepping things up on all fronts, giving old fans and newcomers both one of the most ruthless displays of heavy music the year as seen thus far.

            Pain is Power is a curious amalgam of heavy music stylings that doesn’t cleanly fit into any specific subsect of metalcore, hardcore or death metal. In a word, Justice for the Damned are aggressive—nothing more, nothing less. Every song on Pain is Power is crushing from the opening lick to the closing breakdown, be it opening cut “Guidance from the Pain,” ultra-catchy “No Peace at the Feet of Your Master” or closing anthem “Die By the Fire.” The band is built on fast-and-pissed drumming that uses quick hands and strong, thick kick drum hits to lay down a firmament from which the band’s gritty, heavy bass adds (even more) heft to the mix. “Machine of War” highlights this excellently, with crunchy bass and thick percussion beating the listener as if they were a duo of sledgehammers. This dynamic opens up the floor for furiously fretted riffs and monstrous leads from the band’s guitarists. Just about every song has at least one riff that knocks the listener’s head back—and the ones that don’t absolutely have a breakdown that hits just as hard, if not harder. While “No Peace at the Feet of Your Master” is a riff heavy jaunt through the band’s staunch metallic influence, “Pain is Power” and “The House You Built is Burning” are more straightforward displays of metalcore aggression. “Die By the Fire” strikes a middle ground, with leads that even include atmospheric elements that segue smoothly into spine-shrinking breakdowns that leave the listener practically quivering. Justice for the Damned run the entire gamut of heavy music stylings when it comes to their fretwork, using scathing leads, solos, grooves and grisly breakdowns to their peak efficacy to create a heavy record that is both intriguing and eviscerating.

            Vocally, Pain is Power is just as crushing as it is instrumentally. “Pain is Power” is an excellent example, with harsh, visceral screams hammering home lyrics discussing overcoming adversity and the struggle that entails. Justice for the Damned’s vocal delivery is raw and riveting throughout Pain is Power, and while there isn’t necessarily a boatload of variety within the band’s vocal approach, there is enough intensity to keep the listener engaged without missing a beat. Songs like “The House You Built is Burning” keep the listener sweating throughout the entire duration, as does “Sinking Into the Floor”—a song that experiments with atmosphere among the onslaught of aggression that comes along with. In light of this, the relative vocal monotony Is welcome as it keeps the album flowing smoothly and at a constant, flesh-melting intensity.

            Justice for the Damned might just be one of Australia’s most intense and heavy bands. Pain is Power stops at nothing to bust every bone in the listener’s head—and, concomitantly, neck—by delivering immolating metal in just about every form a fan of conventional heavy music could want. While it doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, it does bring a whole new meaning to “heavy.” Sounding something like late 2000s Parkway Drive got chucked into a blender with Kublai Khan, Honest Crooks, Desolated and Malevolence, Pain is Power is smoldering and sinister—a sure must-listen for any fan of heavy music.


For Fans Of: Desolated, Malevolence, Honest Crooks, Kublai Khan

By: Connor Welsh