(Andy Synn wants you to think a little differently about the new album from The Gorge)
As I’ve stated a few times now, 2023 has been a surprisingly Prog-friendly year so far – for me, at least.
But it’s worth noting that words like “Prog” or “Progressive” mean different things when applied to different styles and sub-genres of music.
After all, what’s considered “progressive” in one genre might be par for the course in another, and vice versa.
Case in point, the sinuous songwriting and impressive instrumental abilities underpinning Mechanical Fiction certainly suggest that The Gorge are a “Prog” band.
But what sort?
I’d imagine that many people – including, I’d imagine, several at the band’s current label-home of Pelagic Records – would be happy for The Gorge to be referred to as a “Progressive Sludge” band, which makes sense considering how closely terrific tracks like “Beneath the Crust” and “Earthly Decay” resemble, without simply replicating, the proggy Post-Sludge output of Swedish sensations Burst.
But, consider this – Burst themselves are/were, at their root, a Hardcore band, as in fact are a lot of so-called and self-declared Sludge and Post-Metal acts, so perhaps it would be more accurate, and more illuminating, to see The Gorge as more of a “Progressive Hardcore” group (albeit, one with the more metallic and technical elements cranked way up) and judge them accordingly.
Take songs such as the album’s suitably twitchy and unpredictable opener “Synapse Misfire” or the equally frenetic “Presence”, for example, which marry the band’s uniquely eccentric and unorthodox style of guitar work with a taut, waste-free form of songwriting whose agile economy of movement and ability to switch speed and tempo on a dime situates them, ultimately, somewhere between Rush and Reflux on the “Progressive” spectrum (and if you’re not familiar with either of those bands… well, there’s your homework for this evening).
Sure, there are occasional moments of heavy groove and haunting atmosphere – particularly during the longer numbers such as “Remnants of Grief” and “Wraith” (the latter especially) – which recall the early works of Isis and/or The Ocean (both of whom, let’s be honest, have their own roots in Hardcore) but the sheer energy and sense of spontaneity which shines through here just doesn’t quite gel with what I think of when I think the words “Sludge/Post-Metal” (and, to be clear, I’m a big fan of both).
Of course, the genre-tag doesn’t really matter in many ways – whatever you want to call it, this is an album which feels like it was written and recorded by the band simply for the pure joy of playing and creating something together – but it might just influence the way you appreciate and experience the music in the long run.
And this is most definitely an album (set for release this Friday) that deserves to be appreciated and experienced in the right way, and on its own terms.