(In April the French band Gorod released an EP that they had prepared for distribution on a European tour. DGR finally caught up with that EP, and now turns in this detailed review.)
Heavy metal is often at its most fun when it feels like the artists behind it have lost their minds. There’s something about a musical genre oft-described as an explosion of catharsis having a creative explosion of its own and going nuts.
It’s not easy to stay reserved when you know that a band has set out to try something that is completely out of the norm for them, and such is the case with France’s frenetic tech-death titans Gorod and their recent thrash experiment EP, Kiss The Freak, which the band wrote and recorded in a very short window before going out on a European tour that saw them hitting the road with the likes of Havok, Warbringer, and Exmortus. Gorod themselves described it this way:
This EP is the result of the craziest challenge we ever set ourselves.
In the end of 2016 we got an offer to take part in a european tour with Thrash Metal bands (Havok, Warbringer & Exmortus). The day before Christmas, we made the decision to release something new and that would fit with the bands involved in this upcoming tour…
We had only two months left to create the whole thing, music, lyrics and artwork. This extreme rush compelled us to work in a totally different way than usual and we had to get straight to the point. This is Gorod’s most spontaneous piece of work since now twenty years of existence and we hope you will enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed making it.
Kiss The Freak saw release in April (only available at the group’s personal store and at shows, so it’s been a somewhat hard find) and is a marked shift in sound for the Gorod crew, as obviously predicted by the fact that they wanted to try smashing out a thrash EP in a two-month window.
But there’s something interesting about Kiss The Freak, as it starts out as a recognizably thrash album — albeit one that is leagues more complicated than the usual fare, given that Gorod can’t help themselves — but then Kiss The Freak starts to shift back to something more conventionally Gorod. It is a listening experience that is like watching the people on the cover of the EP mutate, as Kiss The Freak starts out a hyperfast thrasher of an EP and then slowly morphs into a hybrid of tech-death and thrash, with the last song resurrecting the track “Chronicle From The Stone Age” off the group’s 2006 Willowtip release, Leading Vision.
Kiss The Freak begins the festivities with tongue planted so firmly in cheek that it likely creates a crater, with the song “Being A Jerk”, which is a glorious send-up of every party metal fan stereotype you’ve heard, amplifying a lot of the described traits to the point of absurdity. “Being A Jerk” is the musical mission statement for the first few songs of Kiss The Freak, and in its case, it’s like the band figured that since they were breaking out a big, dumb, glorious thrash metal riff, then why not glorify a big, dumb stereotype of a person. It’s jokingly fun, if not a little finely cutting — like most good satire.
You also have to appreciate how the band are polite about how their song’s protagonist is just a “jerk”, even after yelling out things like, “I won’t pay for shitty local shows”, and basically describing a denim-garbed freeloader. It’s very understated, as I imagine “Being a fucking insufferable asshole” might be going nuclear on that front. “Being A Jerk” is the big circle-pit-riff song of Kiss The Freak and purposefully so. It even has the divebomb-whammy-bar solo combo, because that was pretty much required at that point.
“Tony P. Shot”, though, is probably the last real thrasher of the EP, filled to the brim with shout choruses and swaggering grooves, before the Kiss The Freak EP slowly mutates into a speedier tech-death release, which is Gorod’s bread and butter. Of the two beer-swilling thrashers of Kiss The Freak, “Tony” may actually work out to be the better song because its a little less purposefully braindead, and also features a snappy blastbeat section that makes the song move much faster after its opening stomp.
You can tell when the shift happens in the opening of the third track, “Anise Power”, at the moment when the bass guitar becomes the prominent instrument in the song… which is close to ten seconds into the track. For the next two songs, Kiss The Freak twists itself into the speedier side of A Perfect Absolution, as all the guitar parts start to sound like finger exercises.
There’s still a ton of group shouts stuffed into “Anise Power”, but it feels like the band couldn’t help themselves during that song, so it dances back and forth between death metal and thrashing about for a bit. It is also wall-to-wall jammed with smaller guitar solos, whereas the next track, “Lost In Osaka”, seems built around one giant one, and a glorious guitar lead laid over a chugging guitar groove.
The revisiting of “Chronicle From The Stone Age” as Kiss The Freak’s closer is also pretty fun, basically updating the production of the song and otherwise leaving it be. They change things up slightly throughout “Chronicle” such as adding a couple two-step drum sections, but most of “Chronicle” remains untouched — or rather just retouched, to make it fit a crazy-person’s recording method of a thrash EP. This means you still get the super-low-gutter bit before the slow break in the song, but the part prior to that accentuates that guitar solo.
In some ways, it feels like they used “Chronicle” to cap off their mutation from a full joking party-thrash EP back to their brand of frenetic death metal, with the two songs that do most of the morphing being the two previously mentioned — “Anise Power” and “Lost In Osaka”.
Admittedly, part of the appeal of Kiss The Freak is the crazy high-pressure method with which it was created. Giving yourself about two months to jam out an EP in preparation for a tour is a crazy artistic exercise for a band of Gorod’s caliber, one which a lot of bands would flame out in attempting. But in those high pressure situations sometimes you can wind up with some really good material, with that sudden burst of inspiration carrying you through.
In Gorod’s case, Kiss The Freak jumps back and forth between sounding like the death metal shredfest that Gorod are known for, and them leaning heavily into the light thrash element the band have also always had. They don’t just equate speed with genre, instead breaking out some of the more recognizable stock guitar segments of that genre and then building from there.
The funnier part about all of that, though, is that it is still the more tech-death songs that the band packed into Kiss The Freak’s tracklist that stand out, like they couldn’t help but go for the more angular guitar parts and make things more complicated. It says a lot about the band’s talent that in the short time they had, they still managed to crank out four great songs and rework another one of their older ones and have that turn out great, too. Kiss The Freak is an interesting experiment that paid huge dividends.