Album: Gargoyl (Self Titled)
Label: Season of Mist
Release Date: 09/10/2020
Country: United States
Gargoyl is a band that formed due to guitarist Dave Davidson (Revocation) and vocalist/guitarist Luke Roberts (Ayahuasca) sharing ideas while touring together. They released a successful demo in 2019, which led to them being signed by their label, Season of Mist, and the release of their self-titled debut album that I would like to introduce you to. Season of Mist is one of the biggest independent metal-oriented labels in the world, originally founded in France but operating in the US and Netherlands as well. If you’re a fan of extreme metal then you’ve probably heard of other Season of Mist bands such as Beyond Creation, Rotting Christ, or Abbath. That said, their range of bands goes well beyond extreme metal, and they often sign creative, innovative bands such as Gargoyl.
Gargoyl is completed as a band by the addition of drummer James Knoerl (Aviations) and bassist Brett Leier (Inhumed). Leier & Knoerl contribute skilled and creative bass and drum work to this album but make no mistake – the minds behind this album are Davidson and Roberts who essentially worked on the album in a ‘50/50 collaborative style’ as Davidson puts it. And what an effort this album is. With 11 tracks and coming in at 54min 22s, this album has plenty of content without ever feeling like it has any filler. And for only 10 USD, it’s great value.
The actual compositions in album are unusual and evoke a consistent anxiety, the sort of inner turmoil and stress that one often hears in gothic rock bands. There’s unusual sounds and instrumentals here. The guitar work, for instance, twists and turns throughout the album, in a pleasantly meandering style that feels as diverse as it is consistent. From beginning to end Gargoyl has created a distinctive sound, one that is their own, and living up to the ideology of progressive music by defying the expectations of genre.
Many draw comparisons to grunge bands such as Alice in Chains, which isn’t altogether an unusual comparison. Roberts’ vocals would certainly fit Alice in Chains, although with the complex and intricate instrumentals present here, it feels almost like the members of Opeth went to an Alice in Chains concert with Roberts while all were in a very bad mood, went to an aftershow party at a jazz lounge, and then recorded an album based on their experiences that whole night. The influences here are reasonably clear, with Roberts/Davidson taking them and creating their own unique sound.
Roberts’ vocals are a great highlight on this album. He proves his versatility, weaving his vocals expertly through the complex twists and turns of the instrumentals. This is well demonstrated in tracks like Waltz Dystopia. As the song becomes more and more discordant, Roberts’ vocals do the reverse and somehow become more melodic, and it works. Roberts consistently does this, finding melodies amongst confronting, frantic and at times anxious instrumentals that do not seem to lend themselves to such vocals. These little nuances really make this album a great one to listen to. And then there are tracks like Asphyxia, where the vocal style, and contrast of quiet, beautiful arrangements with building, climactic guitars would be at home on a Dream Theater album.
Dissonant chords, sharp riffing, chaotic drumwork, and vocals, excellent basswork from Leier, all combine to make this quite an atmospheric album. It evokes anxiety, stress, and this tension is built and remains throughout the album in a brilliant way. This is a chaotic album, with surprises along the way that never take away from the atmosphere, such as the quieter, more traditional prog rock track Wraith, or the appearance of saxophones in the song Acid Crown.
This is a strong, creative debut, and one that makes me excited for future Gargoyl releases. Do make sure that you listen to this album – it’s a unique, well crafted debut from a band that is sure to have a bright future.
Listen to the full album below:
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