11 Aug 2022 - Thorsten
Post-Hardcore, Afrobeat, Progressive Rock | Dog Knights Productions | Release date: 13 May 2022 | Favorite song: Metallic Olives
Has anyone ever investigated that little crack between At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta? No? You haven’t? You might want to do so, because in there you will find a pretty little solitaire ring with the name GOSPEL engraved on the inside. And that shiny diamond at the top of this classic engagement ring – when held against the light – will throw the glistening, glittery words The Loser onto the next surface it touches. A sight as miraculous as the record this review will talk about!
Of course, New York-hardcore band Gospel never made it the way both bands ever made it – but part of the intrigue surrounding this band is surely their status as underground darlings with a short-lived but absolutely astonishing list of releases. The Moon is a Dead World, their lone album (before The Loser), was released in 2005 and since then the band has only released a live album called LIVIDII on cassette, with the huge run of 50 being handed out at a one-off reunion show back in 2010. So, 17 years later – a time that even surpasses the time before Fear Inoculum - the quartet gives us eight new tracks and 40 minutes music that might go down as the best comeback in the history of hardcore. IF you like your hardcore progressive and do not run away as soon as you hear the word “synth”.
As soon as you hear the new record you will be filled to the brim with excitement, because the band has that talent for inciting any crowd and listener that they can reach. The record opens with ”Bravo” and its 60s like Moog sound before Vinny Roseboom unleashes his signature drumming and singer Adam Dooling greets us with the words ”Joy and Horror / I feel so alive” - talk about opening a record. The song shows how good each of the four guys is at what he does. Dooling screams for his life which as he says ”[is] not that fun anymore” and maybe he is talking about the sticks and stones thrown at you by life, for example: Roseboom’s daughter had to fight cancer (and she WON!!!). And the band helped the family by stepping up to raise money. When listening to the new record, one might have the (chronologically wrong) idea of him trying to give back by delivering one of the most impressive hardcore drumming performances I have ever witnessed. But maybe it’s also just pure joy. However, his drumming is as good as any drummer on the aforementioned bands above and YES, that includes Tool’s Danny Carey!
Dooling also plays guitar on the record, as did keyboarder Johnathan Pastir. Both do great jobs with their six-strings – here maybe the best example is ”Hyper”. The lead guitar does some great Afrobeat-licks and the rhythm guitar churns out some simple but effective parts before both do some amazing noisier bits in between. ”Metallic Olives” exemplifies their ability to lay down some semi-acoustic, near-Americana lines before riffing away and leading the track into dark, post-punkish terrain.
Pastir seems to be one of those musicians who does not want to outperform the others, but his sheer musicality and skills behind the keys (which he had to learn from scratch when he joined the band in 2003!) would also have fit on records by Santana or The International Noise Conspiracy. Here, another comparison should be dropped: The Nation of Ulysses which seemingly influenced Gospel as much as they influenced Dennis Lýxzen when he formed TINC.
Gospel are masters at what they do: give us exciting songs that are so variable and shifty that they can even incorporate synthwave parts like in ”S.R.O.” on which you are said to hear Kurt Ballou play the saxophone, he also recorded and produced the record at his GodCity Studio.
Lyrically, the record is a wonderful amalgam of slogan-esque clarities like ”For all you own / You won’t own this / You won’t own up / You won’t own me” (from ”White Spaces”) to storytelling stuff like the final track ”Warm Bed” which seems to speak about a toxic relationship (”And if anyone asks / Where is the light / Tell them it never goes on / It never shines bright / And if this is the faith / I would rather face the void / And if these are your rules / I choose a life of crime”): this record provides so much for its audience to dive deep into!
This “gem” of a record doesn’t cost three months’ worth of your salary, but only your attention for some time – because once you started listen to The Loser it might not leave your side for weeks on end. However, I do not want to wait 17 years for the next diamond.