We’ve been using these SHORT BUT SWEET entries to catch up with new EP releases by bands both well known and not so well known. It’s safe to say that Gorod falls into the well-known category — and if by chance you haven’t yet explored their music, the time has come.
It’s not uncommon to see this French band branded with the label “technical death metal”, but over three albums, they’ve been outgrowing it; it has become too limiting as a description. With the band’s new EP, Transcendence, it may need to be discarded altogether. Hell, even the term “metal” may now be too limiting. Gorod has reached the point where no familiar shorthand term can any longer capture the exuberant originality of their music.
Transcendence could be interpreted as simply a way-station between albums, or as a transition from what has come before to whatever comes next, or maybe even as simply a convenient way for Gorod to collect songs that they don’t know what else to do with.
After all, Gorod has self-released this EP, three of the five tracks are re-recordings of previously released songs, and a fourth is a cover of a Cynic song that Gorod recorded about three years ago for inclusion in a tribute to Cynic’s Focus album; that tribute album was released last year by something called Metal Factory Records and got almost no attention.
But don’t be misled — this EP is an unqualified triumph of songwriting skill and instrumental brilliance and a testament to Gorod’s diverse talents. Every song is worth hearing — and most especially the one completely new song, a 15-minute extravaganza of metallic deliciousness. (more after the jump . . .)
Two of the EP’s tracks are re-recordings of the song “Earth Pus”, which originally appeared on the band’s 2004 album Neurotripsicks. The first re-recording is filled with jaw-dropping displays of technical pyrotechnics, with rhythms and time signatures that refuse to be nailed down. Fast, syncopated rhythms are punctuated by improvisational-sounding guitar leads. The instruments appear to veer off in their own separate paths, only to return, in sync, to the dominant musical themes of the song — which are catchy as hell, by the way (and that strong sense of melody is one thing that sets Gorod apart from many other “tech-metal” bands who rely almost exclusively on physical dexterity and dissonance).
As compared to the original, the production quality of the new recording is superior — everything sounds sharper. Among other things, it brings greater clarity to the drumming (and new drummer Sam Santiago has definitely put his own stamp on the re-recording). New vocalist Julien “Nutz” Deyres throws in some shrieks along with his capable guttural vocals, and the new recording also drops the chug-heavy last minute of the original, which did sound kind of tacked-on and isn’t missed on the new version.
“Earth Pus: Salvation” is a largely acoustic version of the song that utterly transforms it. You’ll hear the difference immediately, with those biting introductory riffs of the electric version replaced by a playful kind of acoustic dance. This re-imagining of the song is filled with brilliant, often amazingly intricate, dual-guitar harmonies, accompanied in places by the swell of strings. The structure and pattern of the original song remains, but otherwise this really will greet your ears as a brand new creation.
Gorod performs a similar transformation of the tech/thrash song “Blackout”, which originally appeared on the band’s awesome 2006 album, Leading Vision. It’s a completely instrumental piece, again with classically-influenced acoustic guitars accompanied this time by hand-drumming and a bounding, fretless bass contribution. As rendered in this new recording, the song’s pace has been cut back in places and the music converted to a flamenco-style, heavily jazz-influenced composition. However, despite these changes, the complex interplay among the instruments is no less riveting.
In addition to “covering” themselves, Gorod also includes on the EP a cover of “Textures” — that Cynic song released in 1993. As to why the band chose this particular song by this particular band, the answer is suggested by a comment given to our own Andy Synn in his interview of Gorod a couple weeks ago (published here): They recorded the song for a Cynic tribute album back in 2008, without having much choice about which song to cover. (On this song, Tiko Jenx plays the drums, instead of the band’s current skins whiz, Sam Santiago.)
On the whole, the cover is quite faithful to the original, but with a change in the guitar tone that makes even the jazz-fusion parts of the song sound less like George Benson and more like . . . well, more like metal. The cover is a jazz/prog-metal extravaganza, loaded with blazing guitar leads, rubbery fretless bass riffs, and inconstant tempos and timing. It’s a melodic piece that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
And that brings us, finally, to the epic title track. It’s the only entirely new song on the EP — but what a magnificent song it is. It plays out in movements that ebb and flow, but gradually build in intensity and power as the song progresses. Gorod make full use of the song’s length to layer within it a multitude of fantastic instrumental variations that really must be heard to be appreciated — I’m incapable of describing the experience in complete sentences, so phrases will have to do:
Jolting, staccato rhythms; boiling guitar leads; complex, melodic harmonies; eye-popping bass arpeggios; unpredictable drum patterns that reach out and seize your attention despite the head-spinning effect exerted by the other instruments at the same time; waves of instrumental complexity relieved by perfectly placed respites of melodic simplicity; and despite the improvisational feel of the song, an organizing structure and wonderful sense of melody that make the whole enterprise memorable.
The song also includes considerable vocal variety, with three different voices contributing to the overall effect — former Gorod vocalist Guillaume Martinot, current vocalist “Nutz” Deyres, and guest vocalist Ross Dolan from Immolation. This song is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Guitarist Mathieu Pascal has explained that the EP brings to a close the “sci-fi” story that began with Neurotripsicks and continued through Leading Vision and Process Of A New Decline. What will come next? I really can’t wait to find out. While Gorod was most certainly a band to watch closely before Transcendence, with this EP they’ve vaulted themselves into rarified air — the kind of band whose every release will now be a must-hear experience.
To illustrate: I’d like to play for you the original version of “Blackout” followed by the acoustic reconstruction of the song on Transcendence. Enjoy.
“Blackout”:[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/03-Blackout.mp3|titles=Gorod – Blackout]
And now, “Blackout – Renewed Souls”:[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/02.-Blackout-Renewed-Souls.mp3|titles=Gorod: Blackout-Renewed Souls]
Gorod self-released the EP, providing it initially only at the shows on the band’s recently completed European tour. The EP can now be ordered from a web page that the band set up here. Earlier reports indicated that it will become available on iTunes later this summer.
Oh, one more thing: All you lucky bastards and fine-looking women who will be at HELLFEST in Clisson, France beginning later this week, you can pick up a copy of Transcendence at the Listenable Records merch booth in the Extreme Market. We understand that Mat and Sam from Gorod will be hanging around there for signings and pictures. When you see them, be show to grovel and exclaim “We are not worthy!”