Let me honest right away. I've been a huge fan of Believer since "Extraction From Mortality". Granted, that CD is starting to show its age, but it still has some decent tunes, like "Unite" and the title song. "Sanity Obscure" was even better, and "Dimensions" was nearly flawless. So, when I heard they were working on new music a while ago, I was immediately hooked. But I've heard snippets of their new stuff here and there, and...I was a bit concerned. Was it just bad MP3 rippings that were purposely diluted a bit? Would the CD sound better?
Well, I got the CD today, and I played it with the headphones on. Following is my impressions of each song as I heard it. This is stream-of-consciousness writing, just be prepared for it to wander a bit...
"Medwton" - It starts with some weird electronica effects, going back and forth in stereo. Then it jumps right into the speed metal histronics. The guitar sound...I'm not sure what to make of it. It's heavy, but clean at the same time. The drums are very tight. Then, whoa, into some weird keyboard stuff with odd time signatures. Kurt isn't doing such a heavy "Cookie Monster" singing effect. It's still growling, but it's cleaner. I'm starting to dig this. It isn't the balls-out fury that they've done before...but it sounds like it's more "mature". Man, where are they pulling these time signature changes out of? It almost sounds bluesy. Ah, classic Believer guitar solo "harmonies". Sweet! Hmmmm...the solo went on a little too long, but they ended it before it got too dull. Man, Joey isn't missing anything on the drums, very tight. I love this odd time signature thing, sounds great. "This calculation is killing me!" These voices, what the hell are they saying? Oh man, I love that ending! That "chanting" sound sent chills down my spine. "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down." Creepy ending. Great start to the CD.
"A Moment in Prime" - Hmmm, the guitars sound great out of the gate. And that electronic bass, very nice. I really like the groove to this song right off the bat. Digging it a lot! Oh nice, complete change of pace. I really like this keyboard stuff. This is really awesome. Switching between clean guitar and heavy shit. Does that sound like a Styx synthesizer part! That's awesome! The guitar chords are so thick. Just when you think you know where it's going, it goes somewhere else. Nice middle section - I like what Joey's doing on the drums. That's what I liked about Believer - they weren't afraid to do melodic stuff now and then, and they still do that here. What is that weird sound starting around 4:30? Cool. What...the...hell? Where did this ending come from? Totally out of nowhere, it's like a creepy jazz-like motif with what sounds like a violin. I love it.
"Stoned" - The last track just bleeds right into this one. And it takes off into a furious metal assault. Again, nice weird time signatures. Now we're into a standard metal groove, but of course at 1:02 they've gotta frak with us again for a bit. You think this is typical, and they keep mixing it up. I love that little off-kilter riff! Now it almost sounds like it's too much, but they pull it off. And we're off into a guitar solo that ends as soon it starts into an assault on the eardrums. And at 3:22, that off-kilter riff is mixed up again. And they're ending it in chaos...sort of.
"Redshift" - 80s synthesizer sound that immediately gets twisted up. Bass and drums start it off. Man, that synth is grating in a good way! Oh man, inexplainable! This shit is amazing! And then, back to just bass and drums for a bit. Is this Kurt actually signing for a bit? This is a true assault on the senses. I keep wanting to turn it up more and more. And then, out of nowhere, a slow jazzy outtake. And then, back to the heavy riffing with some weird electronic sound going on with it. I love this electronic/keyboard addition to Believer, it takes them into even more odd places. Huh, took me a second to pick up the feel to that riff, and then they change it on me again! It ends with odd electronic effects.
"History of Decline" - Huh? This is like a poppy hard metal start. Which, of course, doesn't last very long. In fact, it gets really heavy and weird quickly. I love what Kurt's doing with his voice on this song - awesome. Damn it, they keep changing it up, this is simply awesome! It's an assault on the aural senses. You can't get a hold on it, they won't let you. Nice middle section, and I like that wooden percussion effect. How they could do this live...I have no idea. But I don't care. This is awesome enough.
"The Need for Conflict" - Ah, this is the music that was behind the video they made to demonstrate the pictures of the model with the paint on her. Nice groove with some nice weird electronic effects. Pretty straight-forward with time signatures...ack, scratch that, I wrote too soon. Speed metal riff, gotta go for it! And keep it up! They are so tight, it's just percussive on the ears. And yet again, they pull a music style out of nowhere (around the 3 minute mark), for the briefest of moments, yet it works. The ending...where is it going? Off into chaos. I love that electronic ending squeaky sound.
"Focused Lethality" - This is just balls-out speed metal. Abso-frakkin-lutely harsh. I have to turn this one up. When I heard this a while ago, I wasn't impressed, but this sounds so much better. Holy shit, what was that guitar riff? And that was a nice drum riff - Joey's got skills. This is a song to lift weights to. Nothing too fancy about it and it just doesn't let up. Wow.
"Shut Out the Sun" - What is this, an old 80s video game? Man, lots of weird things going on in the space between the music. Back to the off-kilter time signatures - love it. They are so tight, they're nailing it. Wow, a chorus? That's totally unexpected. And back to the world of insane time signatures. 3:38 - where did that keyboard thing come from? And back to the chorus. I can't even desribe where this song is going. It's just...bizarre. What is with this keyboard thing haunting the song at the end?
"The Brave" - Freaky beginning. Seriously, this is really weird. And then it launches into a melodic piece, reminiscient of Fates Warning. Joey's signing? Who knew? Oh, is this Howard Jones (guest vocalist)? Doesn't matter, it's cool. I love the chords at 1:52. OK, I'm really liking the guitar sound. It took a while to like but it fits the music really well. This song is melodic but harsh at the same time. And the ending is awesome. Simple but effective.
"Nonsense Mediated Decay" - A 9-minute song. Starts with some weird poetry reading, then to organ music with metal riffs. I like it already. Great start. And then...it stops. Then, a discussion about UFOs? Where the hell did this come from?? They're referencing "Fire in the Sky"??? This is just a trip. I can't describe it. Now, they're turning a radio? And what's this, human percussion sounds?? Just...completely...bizarre. And at 4:24, it gets just funny - "stars eating stars eating stars". I like the guitar riff in the background. And then the keyboard drops pitch...into...what the hell is this? A heartbeat, a guy out of breath, snare drum in the background, into music with somebody talking in the background...I can't make it out. Now I hear steps walking, turing on a movie projector (I think). Now we're into brutal shit. "A whisper in a frantic moment" - I think that's what I heard. Now it's the classic backwards-music sound. And the projector ends. And that's it.
"Untitled 1" - "The circus is coming!" What is this, an advertisement for a circus? And what's this sound at 0:19?
"Untitled 2" - This is just noise. I can't make anything out. Sounds like space noises.
"Untitled 3" - Is that a marimba? Sounds like they're just screwing around. Which is fine by me, but I wouldn't call this a "song". It's like when the musicians in a band just start farting around during practice, but this is still loosely tied together in an odd way. They're basically reviewing the riffs from all the songs on the CD.
So, what's my overall verdict?
Amazing. This is truly an assault on your all your senses. They never stop with one style - they keep mixing it up over and over again. That's what drew me to Believer in the first place. It's true that the reason I first heard of them was because they were a "Christian" band and that's what I was listening to at the time. But I stuck with them because they transcended their beliefs. There were just damn good musicians who knew what they were doing, which wasn't true of the majority of Christian bands in the late 80s (most of them were truly awful). I'm so glad they got back together and put "Gabriel" in our hands. It's definitely not for everyone - if you want nice, easy melodic rock, run away from "Gabriel". But if you want a "speed metal" band that defies that label and breaks through traditional boundaries, "Gabriel" is just what you're looking for.
I don't regret purchasing this CD one bit. Truly awesome stuff that I plan on listening to again...and again...and again!
* Posted at 03.17.2009 12:16:51 AM CST | Link *