Without God, Lambs to the Slaughter: Drawn to the Sound of Broken Glass

Though both their band moniker and album title smack of grindcore or some form of metal more typically thought of as “extreme,” Moscow outfit Without God’s debut, Lambs to the Slaughter, is doom and sludge the whole way through. The first offering from the four-piece (who may or may not have gotten their name from the Katatonia song), Lambs to the Slaughter finds its release through R.A.I.G., perhaps the most major of players in the still-developing Russian heavy/riff-led scene – that’s not to say “stoner,” because it’s not all stoner rock, though those elements are present in many of R.A.I.G.’s bands (The Re-Stoned and The Grand Astoria come to mind), Without God among them. But the 10 cuts on Lambs to the Slaughter are darker, more doomed atmospherically, and among the band’s influences — readily on display in various stretches throughout the album – the Californian desert is all but completely inconsequential. Without God are shooting for something altogether more tonally weighted, and about as close as they come is some similarity early on between vocalist/guitarist Anton Brovkin and former The Awesome Machine singer John Hermansen’s guttural croon on opener “They Rot.”

I’d chalk that up to coincidence more than influence, and rather, it seems the actual intent of Without God is to play off a Crowbar-style riffy sludge, throw in some melody – as both Brovkin and fellow guitarist Olga Grieg do effectively in the instrumental breaks of “They Rot” – and write traditionally structured heavy songs. Noble enough intent, and they’re not bad at it. Small flourishes of individuality go a long way toward complementing the more genre-based ideas on Lambs to the Slaughter, and a string of slower, bluesy guitar leads across several of the tracks — “Believe,” “Crossroads/Eat the Shit,” “Forgiveness Sunday,” “Altar of Medicine,” and closer “Faithless” – shows personality in the playing that’s still only beginning to emerge. Crowbar is the chief influence on much of Lambs to the Slaughter, whether it’s a slower song like “Altar of Medicine” or a faster one like “Homeless,” but they’re by no means the only point of inspiration on display. Brovkin’s vocal cadence on the awesomely-named “Space Weed” is pure Lee Dorrian from Cathedral’s classic “Hopkins (The Witchfinder General),” and you can’t get away with putting the exclamation “Alright now!” over a grooving riff as he does on “Believe” without earning a comparison to Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf.” Especially not over that grooving riff.

At the same time, I wouldn’t accuse Without God of being completely derivative, and with the thick bass tone of Victor and the drums of Ivan (the rhythm section is first-name-only), it’s the groove that’s ultimately paramount to what they’re doing sonically. Perhaps the most individual of the tracks is “Crossroads/Eat the Shit,” which tops out at just over 12 minutes and presents a shift in atmosphere from the rocking first half of Lambs to the Slaughter to the more contemplative second, by means of a long instrumental section rife with blue-toned foreboding. Presumably, that’s “Crossroads,” because once the second part of the song starts (a bit before the five-minute mark), it’s the titular chorus repeated for most of the track’s back end. Despite the lack of lyrical nuance, the music shines as some of the best on Lambs to the Slaughter, with Brovkin and Grieg riffing and soloing out front while Ivan and Victor propel the changes from part to part. It’s repetitive, but it works – I expect even more so in the live setting – and of the pieces on Lambs to the Slaughter, it’s one of the most effective. Certainly makes no bones in getting its point across, anyhow.

As their native scene continues to develop, Without God are bound to grow with it, both as players and as a unit, but Lambs to the Slaughter is an impressive debut on its own too. From its fantastically stoner metal cover to the sustaining “Planets Collide”-esque notes of “Forever,” it has plenty to offer its fellow worshipers of the riff, and sets a strong example for other Russian acts to follow. Oddly enough, it’s probably more enjoyable the more familiar it sounds on first listen (usually I think novelty plays a big role in how much one either immediately likes or dislikes an album), as picking out the influences toyed with is half the fun, but however you approach it, Lambs to the Slaughter is well worth a look for the newly and long-since converted alike.

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