White Noise, Dark Music, & Plenty of Promise
Metal has become an increasingly broadening genre since the 1980’s, especially if you have followed subgenres like black metal, dark ambient and drone. More artists and more fans have embraced and even celebrated music like industrial, avant-garde classical and post-rock. GOG (aka Michael Bjella) is representative of this new metal hybridism and their newest record, Ironworks, is a potent distillation of these disparate currents which have seeped into the world of avant-metal.
GOG’s new record features elements of early Einstürzende Neubauten in the metallic percussion featured throughout. This distinctive percussive element is mixed and processed such that it functions as a (somewhat obvious) sonic hint at the concept behind Ironworks, which attempts to capture what GOG calls on their website “an epitaph for the death of the American dream, one brought on by ourselves, channeling emotions mournful and raging.” This is powerfully demonstrated on “A Promised Eternity Filled With Cancer,” as the metallic percussion eventually blends into the fuzzed out guitars and electronics indistinguishably, the sound of machines bleeding into a churning void of noise.
The record also features some Trent Reznor-esque piano at times. It’s a subtly used and effective tool, highlighting some of the “mournful” qualities of the record. It’s used to especially great effect on standout track “God Says to Love You in Chains,” which begins with ethereal electronics before giving way to metallic distorted guitars and reverb-laden vocal howls which would not be out of place on a Khanate record. Then the impressionistic, The Fragile-era Nine Inch Nails piano part enters, grows prominent, then gradually fades away as the album assumes its noisier dark ambient/industrial baseline. The record is very much a compressed version of some of these aforementioned artists (none of the songs extends much beyond 8 minutes), because it relies on much of the same noisy, overwhelming wall of sound (either distorted guitars or electronics) which has come to be commonplace in drone metal (the distinguishing element being the lack of an overtly bass-oriented frequency response). This is especially evident on opener “1870-1906,” an intense sonic barrage interspersed with bits of piano.
The album is a harrowing portrayal of alienation and hopelessness that—despite all of its increased hybridism and experimentation—has always been at the heart of metal as a genre. While Ironworks does not yet achieve the ambitious scope, knack for nuance/extended development or the musical maturity of its forebearers (Lustmord, the aforementioned Khanate and even drone acts like Sunn O))) or Earth), it is a fine record which demonstrates plenty of potential growth. Recommended for fans of the somewhat niche genre of dark ambient/black metal/drone metal.