Pain Is The Game
posted on 1/2007 By:
Allhelluja’s Pain Museum was a reasonably decent debut effort that didn’t do much to stake a serious claim for the band, but also didn’t really have any glaring weak spots. It was solid, darker than usual stoner rock with some Entombed spun death and roll influence. The band barely let the dust settle on their debut before following up with Pain is the Game, and as it turns out, that might not have been such a good idea.
On Pain is the Game, Allhelluja sound like a band struggling to stay on track. Whether it’s the much lamented sophomore slump, or simply the result of a push to build upon the momentum of the first album, this effort sounds rushed and rudderless. It lacks most of the boozy groove atop dark, predatory themes that defined Pain Museum, and although there is still the occasional catchy thick riff to grab hold of, they are in markedly shorter supply. However, vocally and lyrically is where Pain is the Game really flounders. Jacob Bredahl’s (Hatesphere) vocal work was one of the strengths of Pain Museum, as he balanced a nice almost Cult-ish clean delivery with harsh vocals. This time around he seems to sing a little less and instead sounds like he’s all wound up with nowhere to go. His grating, less controlled (and unfortunately, most common) aggressive approach is totally unable to add adrenaline to the songs and instead leaves him roaring into the wind. The vocal melodies lean hard on rapid fire, oft repeated phrases, showing both laziness and lyrical liabilities. On "I’m Not the One", Bredahl wisely urges "Break it down/break it down/I want to hear the sound/Break it down/break it down/into the underground/Break it down/break it down/I want to scream it loud", while on "Superhero Motherfucker Superman" he articulately barks about being a "Superhero motherfucker superman/Don’t you really, don’t you really, don’t you really understand?" (repeat ad nauseam). “Big Money, Sweet Money” is another offender. Now, normally I don’t concern myself too much with lyrics, as more often than not they’re ridiculous, and in general, have little to do with why I listen to metal. But these are so in your face and repetitive, they’re hard to ignore.
This material feels like it’s more consistently uptempo than Pain Museum, which benefited from a more balanced presentation, allowing the band to alternately push the mood and tempo with more aggressive vocals and energy, and kick back comfortably into stoner groove. That balance is off this time around, due in part to the overzealous vocal approach. What’s frustrating about Pain is the Game is that Allhelluja is a better band than this--by no means a great band, but capable of much more, and it shows on every track. This album doesn’t suffer from filler syndrome, but instead reveals both its strengths and weaknesses at every turn. There’s something–a riff, chorus, or vocal melody–to point to on each track, but unfortunately, the checks in the positive and negative columns completely cancel each other out. Some of the strongest material is found at the end of the album, on tracks like “The Devil, Me, Myself and I” and “Hell on Earth”. Unfortunately, most listeners may have given up by then.
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