Release DetailsLABEL N/A
RELEASED ON 12/1/2004
Gods Among Men
posted on 4/2005 By:
What I'd really like to do is construct this review as a series of isolated observations. Not a track by track deal, more like a moment by moment review. Because, for the most part, I'm not really sure about how I'm supposed to feel about Gods Among Men. Frankly, this shit just isn't working, and I feel like the only way I can really show you that is by telling you how it sounds, and hoping you figure it out for yourself. Skip to the final paragraph if you don't want the roundabout. Meanwhile, I'm just gonna try and work this out ...
Throbbing post-industrial sludge/hardcore opens the album, leading me to believe I may be in store for something similar to Godflesh or early Isis. I am wrong, and the rest of track, and indeed the remainder of the album proves just how wrong.
Female Vocals arrive and it's definitely not what I expected. For some reason the fact that there is a lady in this band makes me think of Crisis. Not because she sounds like Karen in any way, but because the band's dissonant, pulsating brand of not-quite-hardcore is definitely reminiscent of what Crisis has going on. This vocalist actually sounds like Daniela from The Rays of The Sun. She's soulful, meandering and brazenly over dramatic. And, that's the point. It's so out of place and jarring that it's almost brilliant. However, anyone who's ever been really close to brilliance knows that just before it lay some pretty tragic disasters.
Take that as you will.
"Vastness" features a melodic string arrangement that immediately brings to mind A Sun That Never Sets era Neurosis. It's cohesive and very stirring. Here the band's artistry actually accomplishes something rather than spinning around in a circle and shouting ... "look how cuhraaazy we are!"
The mix is spacious and has an almost live quality. The drum kit actually sounds like there is a drummer behind it, and I appreciate that, because he's talented and he knows it. He's spontaneous, but never drifting. The rhythm section is this band. Without it, they'd be lost.
Brasswork rears its heard here and there. The Mass? Morphine? Nope. Nice try, but it lacks the ease and cool-as-fuck jam-room quality that either of those bands possess. It adds to the atmosphere, but it basically comes off as stuff for the sake of stuff.
The last few tracks are so self-serving, I feel like I should be holding an overpriced imported beverage and hitting on a mildly attractive liberal arts major with thick rimmed glasses while I pretend to dig the dissonance and tribal drumming. It's definitely not a positive way to end things, because I was very close to loving this album after a series of tracks almost as good as "Vastness." Especially track eight, which is kind enough to meet me half way. It's ponderous self-indulgence is merged with a heady consistency not uncommon to the current sludgecore scene. It's this style of songwriting I wish the band would embrace more often.
A while ago a fellow reviewer suggested I check out The Soundbyte. I didn't really dig them, pretty much for the same reasons I don't dig this. Here's why. On both albums, there is a lot going on. Unconventional instrumentation, unexpected vocal combinations, and a host of other experiments that can't really make up for that fact that nothing is happening ... most of the time. As I said, there are a few really great tracks that made me want to like this album more than I do. But there are even more tracks that make me really despise this band for ignoring their more winning qualities. I gotta say though, after reviewing a series of bands that really wish they were At The Gates, I appreciate a band so willing to challenge me. But, I don't think I was up for the challenge.
posted on 4/2005 By:
Holy shit, color me impressed! This record came out of NOWHERE to knock me flat on my ass. For some kind of reference point, imagine Neurosis and Jarboe collaborating. I know you’re going to say thats been done before, but I’m talking about Souls At Zero/Enemy Of The Sun Neurosis here, not the more recent, contemplative, Nick Cave-shaded Neurosis. Now imagine if, in some alternate dimension, Neurosis was just as influenced by DNA, Half Japanese, Unwound, Mellow Candle and Naked City as Black Flag and Black Sabbath. The consequent result might sound something like Gods Among Men, an utterly perplexing outfit that lies between the cross section of skronky, sporadic avantgrind, hellraising crustcore, math rock, schizophrenic jazz improv (Grand Ulena-ish), subversive psychedelic acid folk, bludgeoning, fearsome art metal and audaciously spastic ‘80s no wave.
Now I have absolutely no clue how this ended up here at MetalReview, but I shall attempt, to the best of my journalistic capacity, to do the disparate sounds here some justice. The first track is in many senses a comprehensive summation of the band’s sound, beginning with hectic, dark, staccato punctuated metallic riffing that could very well have been lifted off a Zeni Geva or Today Is The Day record. What follows is an unspeakably eerie collage of skeletal guitar strums, ritualistic Neurosis percussion and a female vocalist who wavers between Diamanda Galas and Jarboe, hitting gutwrenching, demonic lows and higher registers with infernal ease. Cue in the manic screams and His Hero Is Gone type chaos in 03:08, tortured male screeches that duel with the atonal yet fascinatingly bewitching female wails. 04:37 in the track, and what appears to be a cello is introduced into the mix, providing an awkward juxtaposition for the scattershot squalls of guitar noise, hernia-inducing screams and pulsating, throbbing rhythms. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!?
So this is Gods Among Men, a collective of musicians who, in 10 discordant “songs”, each operate along distinctly individual tangents to form a compellingly disturbing whole. Track 2 takes its cues from the psychedelic folk movement, a distant sounding muffled collage of acoustic guitar plucks and squalls of white noise that radiates a minimalist, yet forebodingly dark-hearted aesthetic, recalling Tower Recordings and Pelt as well as Japanese weirdo folkies like L.
Track 3 opens with plodding rhythms, crashing cymbals and somber strings, sounding VERY much like latter day Neurosis (A Sun That Never Sets era. Okay, fine, they sound like later, as opposed to early Neurosis here), evoking a genuine sense of desolation that is stark and remarkably gritty. It proceeds to introduce those utterly affecting female vocals, allowing her mock operatic stylings to provide a bizarre counterpart to the sporadic shards of stabbing guitar. 4 minutes into the track and we have an unabashedly psychedelic section that sounds like Japan’s Ghost covering the Swans. Fast forward to 05:52, and you have an unapologetically abrasive, noisy metal section, squealing guitar theatrics and punishing rhythms and all, that once again recalls Zeni Geva, serving as the violent prelude to a monumental closer- the reprise of the weeping strings that opened the track. Now check out the ‘80s new wave synth pop melody that surfaces 01:30 into Track 6, the catchy-as-a-catchy-can-be Fucking Champs/ Hella type math rock instrumental on Track 8. Say it with me again, folks: WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!?!
You’d think that something this eclectic and downright weird would be lacking cohesion. Yet, somehow the band manage to weave their barbed influences into gnarly, strikingly well-written SONGS, harnessing their disjointed influences into sadistically catchy ditties. Much of the record’s textures owes itself to the elegant presence of the strings, which are EXTREMELY well-employed and used sparingly to exert a ghostly presence on each terrifying track. The drums, similarly, despite the drummer’s affinity for the occasional flashy fill, impose a legible structure upon the meandering vocal and guitar explorations. What results is a record that is unapologetically experimental yet enchantingly musical. Taking a cue from the more recent Half Japanese and Deerhoof material, Gods Among Men are unafraid to embrace fucked-up pop sensibilities and melody to infuse their compositions with enduring hooky charm.
The level of musicianship here is EXCEPTIONALLY literate, the drummer displaying a keen sensitivity for the diverse range of influences that the band wears on their sleeve, shifting brilliantly between obnoxious no wave to shimmering, pounding dance beats to flashy free jazz to repetitious Neurosis tribal rhythms (hell, the rhythm that opens Track 7 almost sounds like a jungle breakbeat or something, what the fuck?!) with immaculate ease. The female vocals are brilliantly executed, bursting with personality and showcasing a tremendous emotive capacity for the dramatic- check out the howling on Track 6! The guitars are all over the place, fingers flying all over the fretboard in a crusade to produce the most dissonant, left-of-center musical excursions known to man. Everything is captured with a pristine production job, the drum sounds is FLAWLESS in every way, highlighting the nuanced musicality of the cymbals, the toms and the kick drum, perfectly framing the drummer's plethora of tricks. The bass is nice and loud, allowing the rambling and angular basslines to exert a progressive influence to the proceedings, while the vocals assume just enough of a role in the sound without domineering in any way.
This band is really damn good. I’d LOVE to see how they’d work out in a live setting, but seeing as how they’re probably not about to come to Toronto any time soon, I’ll have to make do with this record. If you are at all a fan of psychedelic, experimental aggressive music, (as issued by Crucial Blast and At A Loss, the eternal champions of all things weird and atonal) you need to check this out as soon as you possibly can. Maybe you will be as astounded as I was…I need to stop putting this motherfucker on repeat!
Register to post comments.