Review Summary: Not as powerful as it seems
In 2017, Justice For The Damned released Dragged Through The Dirt, a debut that was comparable to a sledgehammer being swung full-force into the head of hardcore/metalcore scene and turning it into a pulpy mess of cartilage and brain matter. It was menacing, loud, and riffed hard. The whole album had a death and black metal feel towards it that at the time was a big middle finger to a lot of other upcoming bands in the scene that were aping 90s nu-metal and alternative rock (see: Code Orange’s Forever). If you want to know more, read my review on it. Now on their sophomore release, Pain is Power, I am sad to say that Justice For The Damned went from HM-2 hardcore savagery to a more generic, albeit still decent metalcore band.
To start off with the good, the singles on this track are pretty great and had me extremely hyped for the release date. “Pain Is Power” and “The House You Built Is Burning” both go hard enough to make me want to rob my own house. With stomping guitar grooves and huge pit-calls that lead into breakdowns that feel like a curb-stomp, these two tracks best represent the JFTD I know best. “Guidance From The Pain” is also the album’s opening track, and isn’t as great as the other two, sounding too similar to the title track and dragged down by a mediocre Matt Honeycutt feature where he yells something about Karma being a bitch. One thing that is immediately apparent through these songs is the cleaner production, with the guitars not having as much of a low-end and not being as overloaded with distortion like they were on Dragged Through The Dirt. It immediately makes everything sound a lot less frenetic and unhinged. But the singles still have great riffs, unlike a lot of the other songs on this album. Don’t get me wrong, they are by no means unlistenable, but they definitely drag their feet. “No Peace At The Feet Of Your Master” and “Die By The Fire” drag on with chunky chug-a-lug riffage while Bobak Rafee barks out relatively uninspired lyrics like
“Smash the masters
Become a martyr
Tear down the structure”
“How much more do you have to feed
To satisfy your greed”
Granted, those are probably the low points, there is overall some pretty decent, politically charged and very relevant lyricism on this album that I one-hundred-percent agree with. But lyrically and vocally, sometimes the record just feels phoned in, with Rafee resorting to a mid/low range bark a lot more than the high, desperate shout he had used a lot on the debut, that had much more energy and character.
Going through a lot of the tracks on this album they sound much more like Knocked Loose than Black Breath or any other entombedcore revival bands, with more breakdowns and much less riff-centric songwriting. Nothing feels as mean or gritty as their debut, and its really a shame because what most of the modern “hardcore” or non-djent metalcore scene is doing right now is either trying to sound like Disembodied, VOD and other 90s heavy-as-*** metalcore bands, writing nu-metal riffs while being to ashamed to cite the bands as influences, or a combination of both. Justice For The Damned had an OSDM/black metal influence that was quite unique and under-utilized that seems to be mostly gone on their sophomore record. There are still some tracks with menacing riffs that have some of that sound present, like “Blister Of The Plague” or “A Crimson Painting” but you’d struggle to find anything like “Those Eyes” or “Demon” from their debut, which punched, kicked, and stabbed from start to finish. But it’s not all bad. The new END album dropped at around the same time, so my furniture still got plenty of abuse.