Friday, February 13, 2015

Gouge - Beyond Death [2015]

Gouge received the honor of being crowned 'band of the week' by Darkthrone's Fenriz back in 2012 when I was reviewing their debut EP ''Doomed to Death'', and with their anchor moored in Hell's Headbangers harbor, one of the best labels that breed the kind of gnarly and devilish concoctions of fields of death, thrash, black and grindcore, the Norse come with full force with ''Beyond Death''. The album hits the listener immediately as an insignificant stylistic departure from EP in its bare-bones, fleshed tirade of death, thrash with a sprinkling of grindcore by the laws of gods such as Repulsion and Terrorizer, but that's not to say it's not fun.  Indeed, these guys now how to impress, and weren't nominated by the esteemed metal god for good no reason...

Gouge improves upon the quality of the production and some of the intensity, and not much else really. In a savage nudge to fans of this kind of old school metal circa 1988-1992, there's actually a ton of nostalgia to be felt, ranging from ''Hell Awaits'' era Slayer to ''Horrified'', from early Death to Autopsy - the Norseman know how to synthesize influential (though by this time more generic than one might like) proto-death/thrash sounds into a combustive modern mix with the visceral attitude of deranged undertaker hacking and pummeling carcasses with rusted chisels and hammers where he should actually be set on his deplorable task. Gouge falls into that marginally spurious territory or gruesomeness and sheer wreck-it fun, with slew after after slew of ceaseless tremolos, razor sharp chord diatribes or just bloody fucking chug fests that go about nicely with tracks like ''Morbid Curse''. The drums similarly generate nice, clear blast beats in rapid succession with great ecstasy, but fail to keep up in terms of variation. Yet even punk and hardcore earn their place in the surprisingly straightforward sound they eschew - surprising particularly because you'd expect a greater temperance towards an album like ''Mental Funeral'' from a band whose song titles and sonic texture literally scream 'Autopsy'. Even so, the Autopsy influence seeps somewhere down there, most prominently in the vocalists' raucous howls, or during some of the sludgier chainsaw banters like on ''Chaos and Horror''.

In the end, scarcely a riff here is re-engineered to be held a candle to some of the peerless classics of primordial gore mentioned above, and you're bound to forget nearly the entire album just seconds after you've stopped listening to it, but the consistency and peppy courting with crackled skulls and age-old speed metal aesthetics makes this somehow worthwhile, and certainly a lot more entertaining than feeling your scalp get torn down by a hacksaw. The tracks here typically get barred behind the 3-minute mark, making them rather excellent pieces if you're in the mood for some frenzied incision, with only the title track reaching close to 5 minutes; and at less than half an hour in total the album's about as long a round of poker... among other things. So there's really no sense in complaining about its length. What would really have made my day would have been a veritable revaluation of the music in all its ghastly components, even though it is definitely far from subpar and sounds fresher than a whole bunch of other bands playing in the same medium. That said, I won't be so generous the next time the samey sanguinary formula and random mesh of horror flicks arrive on my dinner plate in the form of splattered brains and skull bits.

Breath of the Reaper
Butcher Attack
Morbid Curse

Rating: 73%

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