Gnaw – This Face Review

God, what an awesome racket…

And I use “awesome” there predominantly in the sense of “impressive” or “astounding” than in the sense of “kick-ass,” although Gnaw certainly kicked my ass, but more in the sense of “injured me” than “rocked me like a hurricane.”

All semantic hair-splitting aside, here we go…

Featuring former members of Burning Witch / Thorr’s Hammer (drummer Jamie Sykes) and Khanate (vocalist Alan Dubin), Gnaw‘s pedigree is impressive and certainly points toward their musical style, as this group embraces the palpable sense of despair and the deconstructed sonic bludgeoning that characterized all of those bands. But This Face is more than just the sum of those parts, largely because there are other parts to sum. In addition to Sykes and Dubin, Gnaw features the home-made instrumentation of Carter Thornton, the industrial additions of Jun Mizumachi, and the mixing / sound-design skills of Emmy-winner Brian Beatrice. Atop churning sludge, there’s a tinkling piano and the dirge-y drone of some unidentifiable Thornton-born instrument; behind Dubin’s throat-destroying screams, there’s static and manipulated sound effects, clanging metal, ambient recordings…

This Face is a blend of sludgy doom, industrial, and ambient styles, but it’s graciously not entirely as atmospheric or as disjointed as the opening track would have you believe, although a notable portion falls into the realm of the meandering. In its best moments, This Face is more akin to those former two subgenres listed above than ‘tis to the latter. After the initial jarring journey through pleasantly unpleasant sound, This Face settles into territories somewhat more grounded. Still nothing about this is particularly “traditonal,” although there are certainly other records mining the same abrasive, noisy ethos. These middle tracks have an actual sense of rhythm and pulse and even actual drum patterns; they have actual musical motifs; they’re more than a bit more complete than their brethren, but keep in mind, that’s a comparison—it’s all relative, baby.

Once the band settles into their mechanized atmospheric anger, This Face becomes something I can see myself listening to from time to time, vs. it being merely a test for my ears and my psyche and my attention span. It’s still a crawling, bilious white-knuckle and white-noise excursion into all things scratchy and ugly, but moments like “Talking Mirrors,” the clanging nine-minute “Shard,” and the agonizing shrieked “one by one”s of “Backyard Frontiers” possess more than enough menace to push this above the pack. Some songs still drift (“Watcher” gets a little off-track, as does “Ghosted”), but overall, a solid release and a worthy exploration for those seeking some superb segments of a wholly hideous beauty.

Posted by Andrew Edmunds

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; born in the cemetery, under the sign of the MOOOOOOON...

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