REVIEW: Varials – Pain Again [2017]

Artist: Varials 

Album: Pain Again 


Life is many things—majestic, miraculous, beautiful—all of those, definitely: however it is not without a darker side. Life is cruel, like a thorn in your side you can’t pry free. It is a vicious cycle of oppression from your superiors, Gods, leaders or peers and liberation—freedom short-lived, but long enough to remind you what it’s like to be an individual, an escapee from the day-in, day-out subjugation that comes as a cost of existence.  

It never ends, just repeats itself over and over. And until the debut full-length album from Pennsylvanian metalcore outfit Varials, there was nothing anyone could do about it.  

On Pain Again, however, Varials set their sights on the dull, dreary and depressive restraints of merely living, swinging at the chains of existence with twenty-pound sledgehammers until they shatter. The result is an energetic onslaught of metalcore mastery, as Pain Again is truly the album that Varials have spent their entire career building towards. Brooding and bitter at times, while raunchy and arrogant in its aggression at others, Pain Again is a punishing release, proving that while life may not change on its own, Varials won’t let that stop them from effecting the change they wish to see.  

Pain Again is focused and intense, like a splinter wedged just next to a nerve—but it’s also a raw, diffuse and burning ache, like someone took a baseball bat to your gut and kept swinging until you started choking on blood. Above all, it—and Varials themselves—proves to be absolutely relentless; once “The New Damnation” starts, the band are on a warpath that doesn’t subside until the ending echoes of “To Lay in Sin.” Percussionist Sean Rauchut, as was true with Failure//Control and the band’s Absolution split, finds himself at the dead center of the group’s dynamic. Case in point—the lead single, “Anything to Numb,” or the bone-busting climactic breakdown to Pain Again‘s title track. The former, especially, sees Rauchut hammering on a closed hi-hat like he’s trying to bust it in half with every strike—all the while, a deep, plodding kick drum roars away like a cannon, sounding like a jackhammer ripping into a pile of meat. Rauchut’s work continues to be ruthless—from the bouncy segments of “Deadweather II,” throughout “Deliverance,” and even during the closing portion of the otherwise mellow “Abacus,” always giving Varials a ferocious, centralizing heartbeat that allows for every riff, groove and grisly bass line to hit ten times harder than it would otherwise. Rauchut’s role as the band’s core extends to his ability to function as a jumping-off point for master of all things low, looming and supremely bouncy, Mike Foley. Foley’s bass adds a distinctly thick and dense layer of grit and groove to every second of Pain Again, especially throughout the closed hi-hat, open mosh pit segment of “Pain Again,” or the bold “God Talk,” a song where Foley’s bass and Rauchut’s kick team up to unleash pure hell on the listener’s sanity. Foley’s low end lends a taste of heavy hardcore to the band’s more metallic segments, but adds intricacy and intensity to the more straightforward segments of power chords and pissed off percussion; above all, it links the drumming from Rauchut to the furious fretwork of guitarists James Hohenwarter and Mitchell Rogers. Hohenwarter and Rogers hit everything from quick licks and scathing riffs (“Anything to Numb,” “E.D.A.”) to mellow, melancholy moments (“Abacus”) and the outright oppressively heavy (just about everything). Managing to capture the languishing angst and derisive, depressive dreariness of the human condition within their various chugs, slams, riffs and grooves, Hohenwarter and Rogers run rampant across Pain Again, giving Varials the last push into excellence they needed to craft a soundscape of sinister aggression that fans of the band expect from them.  

Where Varials’ instrumentation captures the incessant, rhythmic pummeling of life’s vicious cycle, it is frontman Travis Tabron who captures the emotionally-charged, ultra-aggressive bitterness thereof with his voice and lyrics. Tabron—who has already established his skills as an energetic and intense vocalist on Failure//Control and Absolution, extends his dominion over metalcore on Pain Again, writing poignant lyrics that capture the blood, sweat and sting of the human condition with precision and power. This is evident from the onset of “The New Damnation,” but truly begins to take shape with songs like “E.D.A.,” or “Deadweather II,” both of which see his lyricism oddly poetic—yet raunchy and ruthless per ones expectations. Where Tabron truly steals the show are songs like “Colder Brother” or “Deliverance,” which see more introspective and personal writing than the listener might be accustomed to—yet, again, without sacrificing any of the band’s attitude or intensity. Even the marginally Out-of-place “Anything to Numb,” a track that is likely Pain Again’s weakest (if you can really call any track weak, which is a stretch) sees Tabron stronger and bolder than we’ve seen prior—and “Empire of Dirt” is much the same, even featuring a guest appearance that, although expected to a degree, still (for lack of a better term) whoops wholesale ass.  

Pain Again might be named for its prodigal ability to capture the cynical depression and cyclical abuse caused by the human condition—but it could just as easily be named for what it inflicts. With heavy-handed breakdown after breakdown, ruthless riff after riff and enough infernal vocal aggression to immolate the entire planet, Varials’ Fearless Records debut sees them back at metalcore’s forefront and better than ever. Mature but still murderous and malevolent—poetic but punishing—Pain Again is a sledgehammer driving nail after to nail into the listener’s skull to make sure they get the message.  



For Fans Of: Left Behind, Knocked Loose, Wage War, Desolated, Vatican 

By: Connor Welsh