I once saw a great episode of Beat The Boss (kids show – Google it) where a group of youngsters were asked to design the ultimate beach toy. They did their research and decided to just stick all their favourite stuff together, genuinely believing they would revolutionise coastal entertainment. Alan Dubin and co. must have seen it too, but turned off before the young-uns got emotionally mauled for their total lack of focus and substance.
Gnaw’s beach toy looks something like this: 1 part rudderless Swans impression (Young God era), 1 part post-Wolf Eyes love-in, 1 part sub-Burning Witch rip-off (it’s scary how blatant this one is) and 1 part Abruptum hissy-fit. You could probably throw in a bit of SWP-era Today Is The Day, too. And not the good stuff. It’s a fucking mess, but you can see the theme they were going for. At their best, some of these guys managed to combine timeless song-craft with future-primitive audio gene-splicing, giving basic rock formula a much-needed mouthful of red teeth. All Gnaw have done is try to ram all their favourite records in the player at once.
The two people of interest to folks here are obviously Dubin and Sykes, so I’ll zone in for a minute. Dubin’s ‘vokills’ are at an all time low. At his peak (first Khanate album), he had hermetic, cyclical hypnotism nailed. Some of it sounded like the most sordid metal extensions of Astral Van The Man given a Kevin Martin production makeover. Now we get “Stare into the face of scum” and what sounds like “Everybody’s fucking but you”, screeched over an equally vacuous backdrop. Thanks for the penetrating insight there, Alan.
Sykes fares slightly better. On Shard (one of the stronger moments) he matches a freezer-box industrial/tribal roar to some well-layered spectral electronics, which sounds very cool on headphones. For a while. Check out Mouthus for a similar idea/atmosphere blasted into the fucking heavens. The man’s a solid drummer, but a lack of any engaging rhythmic interplay leaves him grasping for stock ideas. Shame.
The chaos congeals every now and again, though, to form a few fleeting moments of glory. The start of Vacant and most of Ghosted are almost terrifying, but you’re constantly left wondering what happened. Ideas are either flippantly cast aside before their balls have dropped or gripped with enough strangling self-reverence to ensure total nullification.
Watcher, however, is by far the main reason to check this out. This is without doubt the worst song I’ve heard all year. You won‘t believe it till you hear it. So, if you were thinking of packing it all in, seek solace in the fact that these guys managed to get this utter wank on a professionally distributed high-profile album. There’s hope for your shitty band yet.
1.8 / 5 – Chris Storey ::: 13/04/09