posted on 7/2012 By:
It has often been remarked that technical death metal functions according to the law of diminishing returns. The first arpeggiated sweep? Awesome. The second? Pretty okay. But arpeggiated sweeps three through n? A bit like trying to milk a bull. Sure, sometimes all one really wants is a dazzling display of technical wizardry to rattle the walls and induce epileptic headbanging, but an album like that is more of a one night stand album: wild and passionate and full of unexpected moves. But don’t we all really want an album for the long haul? An album whose tender love unfolds more gradually, intimately, and in whose well-explored grooves are still found delicate pockets of thrilling newness? Overstretched metaphors aside, the albums that press themselves indelibly into the muscle memory, that are capable of reflexive recitation years down the line, are the ones with which you form a relationship.
Enter Gorod’s A Perfect Absolution. It’s been three years and a new vocalist since we last heard a full-length album from these Frenchmen. Three years in which, moreover, the mushroom cloud of increasingly blinding technical death metal has continued to blossom rottenly apace, and yet Gorod has wisely avoided the competitive impetus to such bloated excess. Gorod’s albums are beacons of hope in a tide of darkness because they embellish songs with technical flourishes rather than retroactively slopping haphazard song structures atop soulless freakouts. For proof, look no further than the album’s opening. Following a brief orchestrated introduction, “Birds of Sulphur” careens into frame with a Nergal-esque vocal barrage that quickly volleys into a blistering stutter-riff that not only forms the main skeleton of the song, but almost immediately lodges itself directly in the brainstem. Hell, “Birds of Sulphur” is basically a perfect song, encapsulating everything that I love about the very best technical death metal. It even saves the very best for last as it climaxes with the absolutely immense (and very Gojira-ish) repetition of “Fire! Will fall from! The sky!” Play me that song six times in a row and it’d be a damn splendid thing, but Gorod has other plans.
However obliquely this was stated earlier, Gorod’s style of technical death metal is the perfect type of tech death because, for as much as it produces albums of cool moments, those moments are embedded in identifiable and memorable song structures. That shouldn’t discount the impact of those moments, though, some of the very greatest of which are when the band switches, however momentarily, into major key tonality – especially when it’s done in a way that parallels an earlier rhythmic or melodic figure. (See the very end of “Sailing into the Earth” for a great example.) Fantastic bits and pieces abound, from the subtle synths on “Elements and Spirit” to the sort-of clean vocals in “The Axe of God” which segue perfectly into a wailing guitar solo. Benoit Claus’s fluid bass playing is a large part of the album’s huge charm, especially with its prominence on “Carved in the Wind.” The song’s riffing and chord structure is an immaculate puzzle – a teleological arithmetic – and although the funk break late in the song looks odd on paper, it works perfectly in practice.
In fact, even though I’m still not sure exactly how they’ve done so, with A Perfect Absolution, Gorod has managed to become the Faith No More of technical death metal. It won’t necessarily be obvious the first few times through the album, but you more you stick with it, you more you’ll understand that this is, well, kind of a weird album. Like Faith No More, Gorod is close enough to the mainstream vision of the form, but the quirks and intricacies underlying the surface digestibility suggest a cunning alchemy. In the case of A Perfect Absolution, the album continues to get stranger as it goes on. The album’s second half shuffles in with the creepy, out-of-tune piano plunking that introduces “5000 at the Funeral,” and several points in the second half feature moments where new vocalist Julien Deyres uses a not-quite-Patton-ish deep spoken word voice. “Carved in the Wind” eventually finds a guitar figure that loops and loops back on itself, and before you, the poor unsuspecting listener, are properly prepared, the band throws the monstrous curveball of “Varangian Paradise.” The song opens with, shall we say, some wicka-wicka guitar action, triangle, and seriously odd-timed chugging riffwork. Rather than alienate, however, these seductive guitar swells draw you in to a new landscape that is being crafted as you watch in helpless thrall. And oh, what’s that at the midsection around 2:15? A samba? “Give way to your most unholy desires.” Makes perfect sense; technical death metal as avant-funk-thrashers Faith No More as fodder for hedonistic headbanging.
The album’s closer “Tribute of Blood” is the most straightforward moment of the back half, with a dual guitar solo occupying most of the third minute that oozes fleet-fingered tech-drooling satisfaction, but best yet is the abrupt ending that’s made to seem like the album is skipping, shedding frequencies, finally and pitilessly engulfed by the empty space that tech death typically abhors. As far as Gorod’s canon goes, 2006’s giant of an album Leading Vision is most likely still the superior album (and in no small part because of its perfect production – rich, warm, and full without dulling the technical elements), but the band’s songwriting trickery and overall intelligence is in sharper focus throughout A Perfect Absolution, and, goshdarnit, I just like this one better.
A Perfect Absolution never once suffers from diminishing returns. Technical death metal isn’t typically a preferred style for yours truly, so when a tech death album comes along that not only holds my attention, but holds it so carefully and invitingly as to keep me coming back again and again, haunted by the ghost of something only just departed, I know there’s something special going on, even if (and maybe especially if) I can’t give it a name. As long as we’re dissecting death metal based on economic theories, I might close with a few words about opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is what one forgoes in order to pursue a particular activity; if you want to ditch work for a couple of hours, the opportunity cost is those hours’ lost wages. To form a lasting relationship with A Perfect Absolution, you might have to forgo several drunken one night stands of joyful romping and later hollowness. But life is long and hard and mean and long, and this one, this blessed one, is worth coming home to.
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Process Of A New Decline