Through their forthcoming second album the Dutch band Ggu:ll prove themselves absolute masters of lightlessness. They named the album Ex Est as a reference to the state after being, and “the realization that all that is, will someday not be”, and that “all is doomed to end up as a ruin of itself”. It poses the question whether there is a meaning in existence despite the realization that life itself is meaningless.
With such a daunting and borderline-nihilist conception at the core of Ex Est, it is no wonder that the music is so pitch-black and so harrowing. From the funereal bell-like clanging that begins the opening track “Raupe”, straight through to the final shattering wails of pain in “Voertuig der verlorenen”, Ggu:ll render a nightmare that feels all too real.
photo by William van der Voort
It’s a shape-shifting nightmare that Ggu:ll have brought into the world from their dreaming. In mundane terms, they draw on influences from doom, sludge, black metal, and noise. They bring to bear avalanche drumwork, bass lines that sound like the collision of tectonic plates miles underground, a ruinous array of riffing, mind-scouring electronics, and vocals of terrifying intensity.
In emotional content, they interweave those influences to create a cornucopia of calamities. When the pace trudges and stomps, the band inflict low-end ruin of earth-cracking heaviness, pulverizing the senses with the force of their pounding. Even then, the guitars wail in agony, slash like groovesome sabres, or boil like blizzards of razors. When the rhythm section accelerates and the guitarists let go in frenzies at the same time, it takes little imagination to envision the world ending.
Such visions are not merely driven by sounds of destruction, but by sounds of destruction on a vast scale. At those zeniths of violence, the music towers and scathes with dramatic expansiveness, and the vocalist screams as if simultaneously being burned alive and torn apart.
photo by William van der Voort
It’s welcome when the upheavals relent and a guitar rings out, reverberating with almost bell-like clarity, but even in such slower and relatively softer moments, the agony in the laments are palpable. Even in the music’s most stately and soulful passages, there’s really no light there either, only grief and perhaps a futile yearning, soon snuffed out as the malignant power of the music swells again.
To return to more mundane terms, Ggu:ll do pick their moments to get listeners’ heads moving and bodies heaving, and to create a feeling of vibrancy that seems almost like resiliency, something more than mere endurance. Perhaps there is some meaning in meaninglessness, the music may suggest, or at least the realization that, being human, we’ll always keep grasping for it.
But Ggu:ll‘s music makes no promise that it will ever be found. In the music itself, the resilience always seems to be defeated, sometimes morphing into psychosis (at times the music does get very trippy, in unnerving ways) and sometimes simply crushed to dust.
If you’re searching for joy in music, other than the pleasure of witnessing formidable talent at work, you’ll probably want to turn away from Ex Est. If you’re searching for music of visceral, shattering power on multiple levels, however, you’ve come to the right place. It truly is a stunning accomplishment — as you can now learn for yourselves through our premiere stream of the entire album.
Ex Est will be released by Consouling Sounds on October 21st. The visualization of the album’s theme in the cover art was rendered by Manuel Tinnemans.
Vocals & guitar: William van der Voort
Guitar: Gert-Jan Kerremans
Bass: Dave van Beek
Drums: Bart Waalen