17 Nov 2022 - Thorsten
Dark New-Wave, Blackened Gothic Rock | Prophecy Productions | Release date: 21 Oct 2022 | Favorite song: The Hall of the Unconsumed
When a band is called Gospelheim one can either expect a strange, rhythm-less German Gospel choir or some kind of run-of-the-mill Nordic Black Metal combo. But there is a band from Manchester, UK, which is neither, that likes to play with expectations and goes its own path. A highly intriguing and seductive one, might be added.
Even the cover and logo of the band is somewhat irritating as it hints at Black Metal and its affinity at hardly readable lettering; combine that with the cover painting by Beth Hindley depicting a somewhat androgynous person in a grey and blue color scheme, an iron-colored shawl around her head and a stylized logo on her/his throat and a lot of us will make that Black Metal association. Additionally is Prophecy Productions, their label, also known to have a heart for Black Metal – but maybe not the average blast-beat-driven version of it. They like bands that share the love for the genre and push it further – and in that sense, yes, in that sense Gospelheim is somewhat of a blackened rock band. And the core duo of Coco on bass and Ricardo on the six-string (both also share vocal duties, but more on that later) have surely listened to their share of Black Metal. Nonetheless, they are not a Black Metal band. Heck, genres will only get you so far with this band – if you really one, then this is Blackened Gothic Metal.
No genres, but references you need? Okay, easy – Cure, 69 Eyes, Type-O and Placebo. The latter is surely not just my imagination, but when you hear Coco’s and Ricardo’s voices dance around each other, often in a similar vocal range, then Brian Molko is poking his head around the corner of your mind, I figure. And there could be worse comparisons than that, right?
What I really, really love about Gospelheim’s debut is the way they sequence the album – they give us a lot of mid- to uptempo-songs but pair those with some wonderfully melancholic parts, like the opening of the final tiny miracle called ”The Hall of the Unconsumed” which starts right after the rather punkish ending of “Valles Marineris” with a really hypnotic vocal line over a real simple semi-acoustic guitar. Why the lines automatically carry me over to the missing member of Manic Street Preachers is pretty clear when reading them out loud: ”There is a song at the center of the world / and it sounds like razors cutting through flesh / There is a poem carved in your skin / It reads like lament begging to sing “. Even though this surely is not a reference to Richey but it purveys an image that is very close to his ‘iconic’ bleeding arm. After these four lines the electric guitar graces the song with a heavy riff perusing thunder and after that the spiraling guitar and fast-paced drums really take over. The vocals pick up the ”There is … “ element over and over again and really hold the track together because the manifold different guitar lines hold it close to breaking point.
The track arrangement seems to be of real importance, they even incorporate a short synth-interlude which sounds like a modern-day church organ in a Gothic cathedral with its pillars reaching upwards to the heavens – just like the sound of this interlude ”Lux Ephemera” (“Dying Light”). The next track, ”Praise Be”, is another soundproof for the melancholia the record emanates because the vocals shine through this Goth meets Alternative Rock masterpiece and pull the audience closer and closer.
But many of the tracks also hold little details like some slow, nearly Doom-like drum passages or fast, spinning blastbeats attacking the various guitar lines in a way that the listener is thrown around and still is never lost. The record is surely held together very nicely by the guitars’ signature sound which is always a bit like Placebo or other classic 90s Goth-inspired bands like She Wants Revenge or even AFI but of course also like the classics, Fields of the Nephilim, Sisters of Mercy or Killing Joke.
If you loved Beastmilk and their debut, then this band should surely catch your attention with their version of Post-Punk meets Gothic Rock, Alternative Rock battles some blackened song elements. The vocals are really well integrated into the sound and the guitar parts are flawlessly executed. Nonetheless, I would go one step further: As I have never been a real fan of the Gallaghers I will end this review by saying the following: Apart from Oceansize and the related Amplifier there has not been a Manchester-act as intriguing to me as Gospelheim since the Madchester days. There, I said. Heard it here first.
PS: Indirectly referencing a centuries-old essay by Alexander Pope in the opening track’s title of your debut record is a bold move, but works really well. In some ways, your songs purvey “hope” but some of their content’s are surely “infernal” - but so seductive! Well done folks!