Author: Bloodshot Grub
Album: A Maze of Recycled Creeds
Label: Listenable Records
I’ve never bought into the notion that technicality is necessarily a trade off with expressiveness, or that the majority or even a substantial number of technical metal bands are guilty of focusing on showing off their chops rather than on writing good music. On the contrary, I find technical death metal to be one of the more emotionally engaging death metal subgenres. Gorod’s prior albums are an excellent example of what I’m talking about: virtuoso musicianship used to access a spectacular and entirely expressive approach to melody that draws from classical and jazz music. The reason that A Maze of Recycled Creeds falls flat is not because they’ve spent too much time practicing their sweep picking and not enough time on their songwriting, because the level of musicianship hasn’t changed from prior albums. It’s still top notch, and I don’t think this would be a better album if they had backed off on the technicality. More likely, it would be a worse one, because many of this album’s really enjoyable moments are also jaw-dropping displays of technical ability. For whatever reason, the songwriting just isn’t there on this one.
After a curious and enticing intro, we get “Temple of the Art-God.” It has a wealth of interesting ideas, none of which stick around long enough to be really savored. More than anything, it feels like an especially aggressive Between the Buried and Me track, with lots of contrasting ideas played in rapid fire succession and without any sense of cohesion. They seem to have borrowed some stylistic elements from that band as well, or perhaps from progressive metalcore in general, with some proggy chord progressions (like the chorus riff in “Temple of the Art-God” and 47 seconds into “An Order to Reclaim”). They’re atypical of the genre but not at all out of place, and only fail to connect because they seem to be standing entirely on their own rather than being an integral part of a song.
“Celestial Nature” is the best track on the album, and it’s a monster. It starts of with a clever jazz-fusion style melody, like something one might hear on a CHON album, with several clever and unexpected rhythmic twists. The rest of the song spirals out from that idea, staying cohesive even when it gets into black metal territory with a blistering blast beat and upper-range tremolo melodies. There are lots of other great moments to be found on this album, but no other great songs. A few good ones (“The Mystic Triad of Artistry” and “Dig Into Yourself” are my other favorites), along with several other moments scattered here and there where it almost seems like the whole thing is finally coming together. Almost.
The production has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s very clean, but doesn’t sound sterile or mechanical, only taut. There’s lots of room in the mix for the guitar melodies to shine and for the phenomenal bass work to be clearly audible. The drawback of all that space is that there’s not a great deal of body, and the added sonic emphasis on upper range melodies pushes the riffs back a little, pushing Gorod further into CHON territory.
Although Process of a New Decline almost instantly became one of my favorite tech death albums, A Perfect Absolution took a while to grow on me. Maybe A Maze of Recycled Creeds will do likewise, given some time. Maybe there’s a cohesion hiding under the surface that’s masked by the number and diversity of ideas and the speed with which they’re presented. For the time being, though, I’m underwhelmed.
- Bloodshot Grub