Gnaw - This Face
Conspiracy Records
Noise Doom Drone
9 songs (49'31")
Release year: 2009
Reviewed by Alex

I know I can never perfectly describe them, but I am drawn to these black/white noise albums like a moth to a fire. Half the time the moth in me gets burned, as I can’t even get into them, while still spinning them faithfully. The credit must then go to Gnaw, the newly formed collective by ex-Khanate Alan Dubin, that their debut This Face had me, in the least, intrigued. The trick, I didn’t even know what it was, until I started making up some mental stories and images while listening to the compositions. And then it hit me. This Face is the type of the doom-noise album which made me curious, it made me envision and anticipate what the band would do next and what kind of narrative they wanted to put behind one track or the other. Granted, I do not have the lyrical sheet, or even the proper booklet with the promo, and making out Alan’s alternating hisses, whispers and throat tearing screams is impossible, but if there was one sole quality to This Face, it made me think, instead of just focusing on horrifying or hurting my ears, like some of the Stallagh releases I criticized in these pages did.

The band, using at least two sound designers in Jun Mizumachi and Brian Beatrice, provides a lot of sonic pressure delivered via all sorts of electronics coupled with guitar riffs by Carter Thornton tuned below ocean’s bottom and pounding, sometimes tribal, drums by Jamie Sykes (ex-Burning Witch, Thorr’s Hammer). The distortion and discordance at that low of a frequency is bound to sour some stomachs. Yet in its best moments, like the opener Haven Vault, the horror tension is absolutely palpable. Waiting for percussion to enter in Haven Vault is like waiting for the other shoe to drop, only to land in the palms of a synthesizer with its icy fingers running down your back. Factory noise and mechanical conveyor pressure of Feelers is unyielding and unforgiving, then it suddenly collapses, dissolved into some big blue yonder, before the industrial civilization can make its last throes. Rhythmic locomotive of Shard put me in the state of hypnotic bubbly trance to the point I almost ran my car off the road.

I am not claiming I took This Face all in, and doubt this album will become a repeat listen in my player on a monthly basis. For some of the compositions I simply could not make up those mental images which could keep my interest. Also, not to put any pressure on Alan Dubin, my favorite moments on the album were when the vocalizing was kept to a minimum. The drunken dementia of Ghosted, without much background, is way more vocals than this stuff needs, so weird resonating string pinching at the end comes as a relief. Droning voice in the otherwise stripped Watcher somehow reminded me a bit of a stoned version of Jesus Christ Superstar. This is not to say that I would subscribe to every instrumental movement on This Face either, but at least those moments definitely feed the imagination.

Time to circle my review. If you ever accompanied me on that last moth flight to the fires of Jason Crumer, Khlyst, Pussygutt and Stallagh, seek this record out. Better yet, if you survived the heat to hunt for more of the same, I have a feeling you might find what you are looking for with Gnaw.

Killing Songs :
Haven Vault, Feelers, Shard
Alex quoted 65 / 100
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