REVIEW: GOROD – “Aethra”
Technical death metal is a very tricky genre to tackle. If done with creativity and flair, it comes out as exuberant and crafted to perfection. But, at times it may come off as overcooked and pure technical show-off. The line between the two, is extremely blurry and clearly undefined. Luckily, 2018 has offered us a good dose of the former. Albums such as Rivers of Nihil’s ‘Where Owls Know My Name’ or ‘Liquid Anatomy’ by Alkaloid, have captured the listeners attention due to their excellent structure. But at the same time, it has made it impossible for “just solid stuff” to shine. One needs to deliver excelllency to stand out in this crowd and Gorod do just that with their latest offering ‘Aethra’.
To those uninitiated with Gorod, the French metallers have been active since 1997 (1997-2005 as Gorgasm) and have established their name in the technical death metal community by intelligently incorporating elements of progressive metal and jazz. With a proven history of experimentation, the band has managed to push the boundaries of technical death metal into new territories with every release. Their sixth full-length offering ‘Aethra’ takes a similar path and picks up where 2015’s ‘A Maze of Recycled Creeds’ left off. Based on different cults associated with the moon, song-titles are devoted to lunar-deities and lyrics bringing to life philosophies and stories of yore, giving the album a conceptual edge.
If their ‘Kiss the Freak’ EP had you worried of the band shifting to a much more thrashier sound, the album opener “Wolfsmond” will help settle any nerves. Showcasing a much more heavy progressive-metal driven sound, it wastes no time to get things rolling. With a solid foundation of guitar licks, Julien “Nutz” Deyres’s vocals take command of leading the record. There are no fillers, as the follow up “Bekhten’s Curse” has one jumping and grooving to its sheer beauty. The technical riffs sit right in the front of the sound mix (more on that in a minute) and melt your face! The narration style vocals add a groovier element reminding one of progressive metal heavy-weights Sikth’s older material.
One of my biggest gripe with the older Gorod material is how each album despite its own unique sound, it did not really bring a lot to the individual tracks. ‘Aethra’ corrects this in a big way as the variety and range through the ten tracks on display. While still rooted in the heavily progressive death metal sound, they each have their own moments, making them much more memorable over repeated spins. Where “The Sentry” takes inspiration from Archspire and mixes it with Cynic’s sound, “Goddess of Dirt” sees them channel a bit more raw old-school sound reminiscent of Gorguts and dare I say Atheist.
As mentioned earlier, heavy praise must be given to Daniel Bergstrand for the mixing and mastering on record. Technical death metal records are often found to be too loud, with the drums and guitar taking up the entire spectrum and with the bass being lost in the mix. This is not the case with ‘Aethra’, as the sound is much more balanced without loosing the aressive edge. The title track “Aethra” is a perfect example, as at each moment Benoit Claus’s bass lines are just as audible as the dual guitar attack of Mathieu Pascal and Nicolas Alberny. This prevails until the very end with “A Light Unseen” which dramatically concludes the album with a dramatic dual-guitar solo.
All in all, ‘Aethra’ is definitely one of, if not the best album of Gorod till date. There is no re-invention or new to add to death metal here, it’s just everything music done with maximum dedication to the art. It may have been a great year for technical death metal with the releases mentioned at the beginning, but with the addition of ‘Aethra’ it became even better!