Gorod
A Perfect Absolution

Twice in a row now – for 2009’s Process of a New Decline, and last year’s Transcendence EP – I’ve dubbed France’s Gorod one of, if not the most creative tech death bands on the planet. For my money, they’re certainly the most entertaining – complex yet cogent, brutal yet playful, and limber and listenable compared to most of their peers, who nearly snap their spines trying contort themselves into impossible and painful configurations – the compositional equivalent of going for that auto-fellatio achievement. (Case in point, the new Spawn of Possession, which still has not coalesced into anything I really want to listen to).

And so, after hearing my first taste of A Perfect Absolution with “Varangian Paradise” and its blaxploitation Shaft-funk intro,  I had to, yet again, acknowledge that these guys were still deserving of that Most Creative badge. ‘Course, I’m a sucker for any kind of genre-splicing whimsical madness, especially when it involves translating your earlier material into acoustic flamenco (as they did on Transcendence‘s brilliant redo of “Blackout”), or incorporating progressive explorations and soothing cleans (Transcendence‘s epic title track). The chicka-chicka-wah-wah doesn’t quite come back after that intro, but the rest of the bouncy, bludgeoning track slinks, struts and swaggers into a crazy samba or bossa nova groove, complete with sotto voce spoken word like Mike Patton playing a South American cafe tour. It’s easily as colorful as the material I loved most off of Transcendence, and which I hoped their full-length follow-up would be jam-packed with. Sadly, it was not to be, as the rest of A Perfect Absolution goes for a more straightforward Gorod sound, without any more overtly fanciful additions. That’s not to say that it’s not playful, though – the album’s got a few experiments and novel elements – some of them memorable moments, and a few that I don’t care to hear again.

First up, the good stuff, and there’s lots of it, starting with the crystalline black metal breaks in the excellent, face-ripping “Birds of Sulphur.” It’s then followed by “Sailing into the Earth,” a hyperactive dynamo that blends the staccato lurch of “Thirst for Power” with the fluid note-blizzard of “Programmers of Decline,” two of the best moments off of the last two albums. “The Axe of God” starts with some brutal, grindy piggy stuff, which I dig in small doses, just like bacon in my chocolate ice cream. The second half of the track is one of the album’s highlights, with its plaintive, Opeth-ian bridge and virtuoso soloing. “Elements and Spirit” (with guest playing by Mike Keene from The Faceless) features a nifty break in the middle which reminds me of a tech death Phish (no really, it works). “5000 at the Funeral” ends with a series of solos, so blurry-fast that they border on blippy chiptune. And “Tribute of Blood” is just straight-up awesome, especially its southern-fried solo during the bridge.

Then, the stuff that didn’t quite work for me: the vaguely mallcore screams during the chorus of “The Axe of God.” A straight-up croon would have been a ballsier choice, and oddly, less jarring. “Elements and Spirit,” although one of the most challenging compositions on the album, also starts off with a melody that sounds downright happy, like unicorns butt-sliding down a double rainbow. It also attempts to peak with a screamed spoken word segment about 3/4 through, didn’t care for that either. “5000 at the Funeral,” though it ends with a wow, starts off as an absolute snoozer, with a minute-long dirge intro that pile-drives the album’s pace into a muddy grave, followed by another minute of doomy, meandering lurch. The track does feature guest playing by Christian Muenzer (from Obscura, ex-Necrophagist) though, so I guess it’s forgiven. “Carved in the Wind” also suffers from some odd pacing, choosing to slam the song’s forward momentum to a halt several times with the same noodly, proggy break.

Still, these are all nitpicks on what has been quite a pleasurable album to learn over the past month. Song for song, I actually think A Perfect Absolution actually stacks up better than Process of a New Decline. Despite that album’s staggering opening (with the back-to-back flying mindfuck of “Disavow Your God” and “Programmers of Decline”), it hasn’t aged well for me, with its second half weighed down by too much gloomy progressive experimentation and midtempo sludge. A Perfect Absolution sloughs off all of that muck and gets back to the bouncy, nimble and brutal sound I loved from Leading Vision. I still would have loved more of the genre-splicing brilliance from Transcendence (yes, even those weirdo Sugar Plum fairy chimes from the “Earth Pus” remake), but I’ll settle for entertaining tech death that’s enjoyable to listen to, expertly played and yes, still creative as hell.

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Written by Jordan Itkowitz
June 15th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: diggedy1

    Dude, I LOVED the “shaft” part, too!!! Totally just one small piece of this band’s appeal. This is another jaw-dropping album, perhaps their widest array of “wait, what?” moments yet. Still the only band out there I’ve heard that mixes technical, melodic death metal with Django Reinhardt influence. Let me know if there are any others, and if they do it as awesomely as Gorod! Also, I was worried about the new singer from when I first heard “the Axe of God,” and thankfully he goes the guttural route for the most part, and some of his “clean” singing reminds me more of Darkane and less like metalcore bs.


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I wish they would do a whole album of their acoustic Django Reinhardt stuff, I love it.

    The new singer and guitarist were both on Transcendence too (according to MA).


  3. Commented by: Dan

    ‘Leading Vision’ is still my fave. Sandrine was a great drummer who rarely leaned on blasts. It gave the music a much more organic feel. Haven’t really liked the last two. Very sterile sounding and some of the new vocal styles on this one really turn me off.


  4. Commented by: E. Thomas

    Spent a lot of time with this release lately, as I start to get my year end list together, and its steadily climbing up my list. So playfully extreme and technical.


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