[schema type=”review” name=”Gorod – Æthra” description=”Label: Unique Leader Records” author=”Sarp Esin” pubdate=”2018-10-18″ ]
I first happened upon Gorod back when their Process of a New Decline was new (so in 2009.) I remember not particularly digging them, and moved on. Come nine years later, they came back into my life and this time with an album that managed to not only impress but to make me reconsider some of my life choices. While it may also have to do with my newfound appreciation for death metal and its more technical side, I think it has more to do with Gorod positively delivering with Æthra.
Now let’s define what I mean by “technical death metal” in this particular instance. Gorod’s blend of technical death metal is a bit atypical in that it is less technical and more progressive. If anything, Æthra flexes its technical muscles in moderation. You still get the angular, winding riffs that ebb and flow, twist and turn, whine and scream, but you don’t get riff after riff to the point or songs that spiral out of control. To put that into perspective, Chandra and the Maiden, by and large, consists of the riff that is introduced in the opening segments – this may make it sound repetitive, but far from it, as Gorod manages to go through spiraling passages centered around it to keep you interest.
The atypicality of the songwriting in Æthra is also because songs don’t meander or tangent too much. The songs may not be jam-packed full of a billion shifts or a trillion solos, but overall they are very tight and very focused. Songs like The Sentry and Wolfsmond benefit greatly from this as Gorod moves through them by working around and playing off of the riffs they build the foundations on. This isn’t to say that the songs don’t venture too far from their introductory elements: songs like Inexorable or Hina take the scenic route and at times find themselves strayed far from what the song used to be – Hina especially with its devolution into a softer, near-ambient bridging section is quite a trip.
What also bears mentioning is the general aura of the album and of course, the drums. For one thing, the way the riffs are structured, the odd times and the general air of songs suggests a very Middle Eastern feel, just by the virtue of how they were written. Just listen to the opening track, Wolfsmond and tell me this isn’t so. This provides for a very welcome relief from odd-time-signature chug-fests and breathes life into the arrangements. Similar is the occasional use of clean vocals and spoken-word passages that provide for variety. But worry not, when it’s time to get rough, Gorod is not afraid to do so, either. In fact, the entirety of Æthra is a balance between the more unique features, death metal elements and the softer partitions.
Special mention and love goes to Karol Diers who puts out a wonderful performance and manages to keep the jazzy, odd, often fill-heavy rhythms flowing. This is the kind of drummer that can really help a band – while he can and does throw in blasts and skanks when the occasion calls for it, but what stands out is more of his esoteric beats. Hats off.
Now. Real talk. Æthra is many things, but it isn’t perfect. There are two main issues with the album, but these are thankfully minor. The first is that the production does leave a little something to be desired, with the bass not always coming through as clearly as it could’ve been. The overly-polished production also, at times, softens the guitars quite a bit (I know this is typical for tech-death, but doesn’t need to be.) The other issue is relative to the listener: the album relies more on sudden, abrupt shifts rather than strings in order to progress the songs. This can be a bit disruptive at times, but if you think this is par for the course where tech-death and variants are concerned (which it is) then it is a non-issue.
Otherwise, Gorod knocks one out of the park. When it comes down to it, Æthra is a much-needed fresh air for me, especially after a slew of disappointments (as some of my reviews would attest to.) I say if you’re into death, tech-death, prog-death, Gorod or all of the above, check it out ’cause I have a feeling that you’ll like it. Others should check it out as well, because the album has many thrills to offer to different tastes. Highly recommended.
Julien Deyres – vocals
Mathieu Pascal – guitars
Nicolas Alberny – guitars
Benoit Claus – bass
Karol Diers – drums
02. Bekthen’s Curse
04. The Sentry
06. And the Moon Turned Black
07. Chandra and the Maiden
08. Goddess of Dirt
10. A Light Unseen
Gorod Official Website