Coinciding with the resurrection of Martin Van Drunen’s career, a flurry of stellar releases have emerged from the Death/Doom depths.
The much lauded concept album ‘Of Frost and War’ from Hail of Bullets’ and more recently, the intensely powerful ‘Deathammer’from Asphyx have been two of the most widely spoken about and memorable albums of the last few years.
It was, then, with anticipation that this newest slab from the Dutch underground emerged, hot on the heels of Asphyx’s belting latest.
Featuring three members of the afforementioned band, including both Van Drunen and Eric Daniels, as well as an overlap with Hail of Bullets and others, this supposed ‘side project’ would perhaps have been expected to deliver something off the beaten track.
From the very first note, however, it is absolutely clear that this is not on the agenda, and it raises several questions in the listener.
Firstly, is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? Van Drunen has one of the most recognisable and celebrated voices in metal,but how many relatively similar sounding bands can you front with out bordering on self parody? The expression ‘band whore’ was coined for this man.
Secondly, despite protestations to the contrary by members of GSBC that the band are a seperate entity, the logic of diluting and spreading ideas and riffs thinly across several bands seems flawed.
The levels of overlap lead one to question how shallow a pool are the Dutch choosing from, and surely it would make more sense to condense all the undoubted class rather than Van Drunen lending himself to whoever seems to ask.
All this may seem flippant or pedenatic, but it reflects itself in this album.
The opening track ‘All
Rise’ is an ominous, mid tempo opener, with the evil croaks and groans of MVD seeming to be reanimated by a necromancer, and genuine optimism is engendered in the listener. The shrill, inimitable Daniels guitar sound is reinforced by an intelligent and crisp production. And we’re away.
Or are we?
Unfortunately this album stays rooted in first great for too long, and by the time the diesel begins to be sucked, it’s far too late for true redemption.
What is irksome is that this album can’t simply be written off as ‘shite’. The implication that it is inept, poorly played or lacks atmosphere is not valid here. The problem is that it is unmemorable to the point of being insipid, the riffs mediocre and to be frank it is a challenge to simply concentrate to a moderate degree for the just
shy of fifty minute duration.
Take instrumental ‘Grand Justice, Grand Pain’ for example. Often in this and related genres, this type of track is an opportunity to abandon the pace momentarily, to throw in some effects or even an acoustic guitar line or similar.
Instead, GSBC have opted to continue with the bludgeoning death/doom attack
in the form of a rather rudimentary, overplayed riff, differentiated from the album’s balance solely by the lack of vocals. Perhaps I am missing something, but it seems to lack a point.
It is all not death, doom and gloom however. When GBSC decide to wake up at track ten (of eleven) from the trudging sleepwalk, they arise with an awesome pair of tracks to round off a disappointing album. ‘Piled up for the Scavengers’ is a punishing, stomping track which shows Eric Daniels at his shredding best.
The head will move of its own volition when the verse riff appears, make no mistake. When he surges forward for the kill like this, there are few to match Daniels.
‘…And thus the billions shall burn’ pretends to an epic throne, and despite sounding horrifyingly similar to Arch Enemy’s smash hit ‘We Will Rise’ during the opening exchanges, it is inventive and is a strong coda for an album that took too long to get out of the blocks.
There will be something here for fans of Pestilence, Hail of Bullets and the like, but it’s difficult to see it having any kind of lasting impact. The obvious comparisions to Asphyx have encumbered it from the very beginning, and it’ll be rare the man who can take this entirely on its own merits.
2.6 / 5 – Kevin Jacob ::: 16/02/13