Gnostic - Engineering The Rule
Season Of Mist
Technical Thrash/Death Metal
10 songs (38:18)
Release year: 2009
Gnostic, Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Goat

Featuring members of the reformed Prog-Death-Thrash giant that is Atheist, Gnostic’s debut is very, very nearly a killer album. Everyone but Kelly Shaefer and Tony Choy are part of this project, and with Kevin Freeman on vocals and Stephen Morley on bass (no, I hadn’t heard of them either, but Morley at least does a killer job) the band have clearly opted for a style that runs as close to the Atheistic ideal as possible. There are more than a couple of moments where you’ll check to make sure that this isn’t actually the new Atheist album – if that much anticipated release sounds a lot like this, it’ll be a bit of a letdown for me in some ways. You could say that it’s the same but different... really, it’s just a bit too much the same at times, and although technically Engineering The Rule is flawless, it has a couple of problems which hold it back from true acclaim.

Firstly, there’s Kevin Freeman’s vocals. He sounds like a Metalcore version of Kelly Shaefer half the time, and his yells quickly become annoying and detract from the technical mastery of the music itself. Opening track Visceral twists and turns promisingly until Freeman starts yelling, and it’s hard not to immediately feel disappointed that you’re going to have to try and ignore him in favour of the music. He knows when to shut up at least some of the time, fortunately, but you can’t help but wish he’d put a sock in it more often. Secondly, there’s the songwriting. Although Isolate Gravity, for example, opens Thrashily like Pestilence at their best and continues to enthral throughout, it’s easy to listen to the whole album without realising that you have, and the songs aren’t nearly as distinct as they should be. Still, give them their due, Gnostic have clearly made an effort – the drum solo on Sleeping Ground, the bass-drums interplay on the absolutely killer Mindlock, and the general technical wizardry are excellent, and show that there’s a shrewd mind behind it all. The odd dip into Jazzy territory serves the album extremely well, good tracks like Wall Of Lies and Life Suffering becoming even better as a result.

Going back and giving my Atheist albums another listen, you have to note just how similar the two bands are. Gnostic have a clearer production and a poorer vocalist, but otherwise, a few drops of Pestilence influence is all that hangs in the balance. Be clear, this is fantastically-played stuff, guitarists Sonny Carson and Chris Baker and drummer Steve Flynn saving the album with their excellent playing, and any sensible Metalhead out there will be listening for them anyways Engineering The Rule is worth whatever price asked.

It’s certainly better than Pestilence’s recent disappointingly populist comeback, and suggests great things are in store for Atheist’s return... my fingers are well and truly crossed. If I were truly the cynical bastard I pretend to be, I’d suggest that this Gnostic project is a dry-run for the new Atheist album – at the very least, I doubt that people will be talking about Gnostic in a year’s time, but Atheist are due a place in the Metal history books, as well as a few Classic reviews. Yet if you’re a fan of this technical sound (and if you’re not, you really, really should be) Gnostic will fill a hole for the moment.

Killing Songs :
Isolate Gravity, Violently Calm, Corrosive, Mindlock
Goat quoted 79 / 100
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