Jay Gambit is a very prolific and productive man – over the years he has produced a vast opus which glitters in various shades from “harsh” to “gritty”, from “brittle” to “powerful”. All of these and much more can be used to describe the songs of his band Executioner’s Mask, which will release their second full-length Winterlong next week!
In 2019, Executioner’s Mask came onto the scene by publishing their cassette True Blue whose five songs then formed the basis for their 2020 full-length debut Despair Anthems which was released by Profound Lore with six more songs added to the original cassette. Now they are back with Winterlong which will also be released by Profound Lore and man, this release is a real gem as it is clearly post-punk and yet so much more.
You will pumping basslines in sync with some really interesting, crazy time signatures so that it doesn’t sound like straight-up post-punk. Gambit also adds some metallic, noisy edges so that it also has a kind of industrial feel to it. Others will hear shoegaze in the way the guitars construct their riffs and fills. However, the record also works very well on a certain surface level as it works very similarly to songs by Nine Inch Nails, especially the period between Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral, even though Jay likes Year Zero more, but this period of Reznor’s work is surely the most post-punkish, when one can surely feel the influence of bands like Joy Division or Bauhaus (and even a little bit Neubauten) in his work. But underneath all of the obvious structures and slogans, one finds much industrial and post-punk, shoegaze and pop-appeal – just listen to our beloved ”Closer” whose pumping beat is as much post-punk as it is industrial. And that can be said about Winterlong, too: A lot of post-punk on the surface level, but when going deeper one cannot but notice the intricate carpet woven from the elements from the aforementioned genres.
The new record is able to do something that can rarely be heard on records: It can make you feel as if it is slowing down between the spins. The first one seems to be a bit faster than the second one which in turn seems slower than the third… That works because the last track ”Wasting” – which is a later epilogue according to vocalist Jay – is a very pivotal point slowing things down a lot and thus seemingly echoing throughout the next spin dragging the songs down a bit. A head-scratching effect. And all of that even though ”Wasting” is not even a slow song, it is a bit slower than mid-tempo, but due to the echo and minimal instrumentation feels much slower, also because the guitar solo is so far-stretching and not very metal in any way.
That solo was written and performed by Jake Superchi (from UADA and Ceremonial Castings) and is one of two collabs on the record: The other one is Kennedy Ashlyn, the woman with the ethereal voice behind SRSQ and one cannot imagine a better duet in the genre of post-punk because Jay’s deep, deep voice (“from the grave!” as my daughter said) works perfectly with Kennedy’s higher vocal range. It is like witnessing Kylie Minogue dancing vocally with Ian Curtis. A perfect match and thus no incident that one of they two tracks featuring Kennedy is also the opener ”Things Fall Apart”; the other is the fifth track called ”Contempt”.
Thematically the record revolves around the idea of waiting for an eternity for something to arrive – more than a “winterlong” sleep without knowing if that decisive appearance, that important moment will ever come. A prolonged hibernation caused by whichever story-line or narrative one can see as a negative motivation to deny oneself that moment of realizing that Godot will never come, no matter how long you wait.
Just like with the best of the genre, this record is a grower for sure. One will probably be convinced by the first spin already and then give it another and another and you will feel how Gambit’s voice, the awesome rhythm section, the sinful and lush synths all slowly creep up your neck and will stay there for some time. One must mention that they are already writing for their next record and the wait might be bridged by three separate remix records to follow soon with a lot of awesome bands joining in like Xii Xiu, Deafheaven or No Joy. This shows how well-connected Jay is, how many people want to work with him and for him. A record to share and give to others because it has a lot to say!