God Damn – ‘Raw Coward’

By Ellie Odurny

Self-penning their own particular brand of “doom punk”, Midlanders God Damn are back with their fourth album and first release as a four-piece, delivering ten tracks of guitar-filled blistering noise on new record ‘Raw Coward’. Recorded remotely over lockdown, it blends a DIY rawness with clever mixing to showcase the band’s characteristic style of angry, classic rock-infused social defiance.

Opening track ‘English Slaughterhouse Blues’ sets the tone with the title words repeated for just over a minute as visceral screams layered over distorted guitars. It’s an intro that immediately conjures up that feeling of electric anticipation for a live show, as the band come on stage and the crowd eagerly awaits that first ferocious drum beat and chunky riff.

Distortion leads seamlessly into first single ‘Yout’, jumping straight in with an energetic, frantic guitar lick, complex drum patterns and vocalist Thomas Edwards’ characteristic tone soaring over 70’s infused riffs. This 70’s influence is sprinkled across the record alongside more modern punk and 90’s grunge elements, demonstrating how God Damn have taken inspiration from various musical styles and made this sound entirely their own. Latest release ‘Drop Me off Where They Clean the Dead Up’ is another track displaying big retro chords and an infectious beat, accompanied by a darkly satirical slime-filled video that embodies the band’s tongue-in-cheek macabre humour. That’s the thing with this band – no matter how many serious issues they tackle lyrically, which direction they choose to go in musically, there’s a sense that they’re never at risk of taking themselves too seriously.

‘Radiation Acid Queen’ touches on a heavier metal sound, with a frenetic intro driven by Ash Weaver’s nimble drumming skills, reinforced by intentionally gritty snarled vocals. ‘Cowkaine’ maintains the pace of punk-rock indignance before ‘Shit Guitar’ mixes up the record’s dynamic with a stark, isolated vocal leading way to a dark, sludgey half beat. Reminiscent of the sleazier side of early noughties industrial metal, this track is likely to deliver a welcome breather to a frenzied mosh pit now those are starting to be a thing again.

Nods to prog influences are apparent on the duo of ‘Little Dead Souls, Pt. 1 and 2’, with experimental choral synth samples and further heavy distortion over a revved up tempo, amping up the second half of the album. Over the course of the record, keys from new addition to the band Hannah Al-Shemmeri add moments of synth-tinged psyche rock to deepen the multi-faceted output from the band.  It’s safe to say that God Damn display multiple musical influences throughout their work, but it’s also impossible to pigeon hole them into a genre – each element of their inspiration taken, absorbed, moulded and refashioned into something quite unique. Even performing as a two-piece in their earlier days, God Damn have always been championed as a band who conjure a surprising amount of noise for a small outfit. The addition of extra musicians doesn’t necessarily make this noise any bigger, it doesn’t need to, but it does add another layer of sonic depth that shows a true sense of collaboration and co-operation. This synergy is increasingly impressive when you consider a lot of this process happened without said musicians even being in the same room together.

Title track ‘Raw Coward’ harks back to the band’s grunge influences with big guitars, the occasional clean vocal always bolstered by that sense of perpetual anger, and additional touches of synth deftly layered in subtle but effective production. Edwards mentions that working with renowned producer Sylvia Massy on their previous self-titled release gave them the tools needed to produce this record themselves with what was available to them at the time, and it shows. There’s a clever balance to this release between raw, home-grown character and understated but effective production that cements the relevance of their sound as a band in 2021.

The charmingly titled ‘Dogshit in the Autumn Leaves’ closes the album with a slower pace, like some kind of dark, warped lullaby, with discordant guitar gently underpinning eery vocals and fading to nothing. It bookends the short collection of tracks perfectly, winding down the energy but none of the spooky, disenfranchised narrative that epitomises the band’s style.

There’s still room for development – there’s scope for more vocal variety and potentially room for a strong bassline to get a look-in for starters, but this release is a confident declaration of intention from a band who aren’t looking for your approval. This album isn’t smashing into new territory, it’s not a huge sonic departure from their previous releases, but ‘Raw Coward’ is built on an anti-elitist, home grown rawness and finessed by a knowledge of music production developed over the past decade of releases. Fresh off a run of summer shows, and with further gigs in smaller, grass-roots venues across the UK booked for October and November, God Damn will be adding to their arsenal of live material with these new tracks, and they’re bound to go down a storm with their dedicated fanbase.

‘Raw Coward’ is released on 10th September on One Little Independent Records. You can check out the tour dates and order the album here.

ELLIE ODURNY

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