Review Summary: 'you look so good you make me not want to kill myself'
Gospel will always remain in my head as the best example of hardcore I've ever seen expressed live. Appearance wise the four members of the band looked like they belonged in an Andrew W.K. video. When they came through my town with Hot Cross, I immediately decided to go to the show after I heard a couple of things. One, that their debut record "The Moon is a Dead World" was produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. Two, that said album was going to be released by Level Plane records who at the time had put out a fury of really, really great material. Gospel was certainly poised to be quite the enjoyable show from my viewpoint, but I didn't expect anything close to what I heard when I actually got to the venue. Comparatively there are two big things Gospel seem to have a love for; Yes and mid-90s screamo. Vocally clear indications that Gospel is following in the steps of Northeast bands like Shotmaker or Three Penny Opera. But, instrumentally the band produces a bizarre form of progressive rock with 12-string guitars, synths, and an extremely impressive drummer. Every member of the band is extremely skilled, but the drummer really is the force which helps blend songs like "Golden Dawn" into gigantic progressive anthems eased by the prowess involved in their numerous rhythm shifts. Gospel's music is heavy, dense, and technical but most of all it's emotionally aggressive, something that makes the band have a timeless appeal.
As I said before "The Moon is A Dead World" was produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. Ballou has a production sound which is known for giving a raw aggressive edge to already extremely aggressive music. Clearly the production is extremely important to an album that is as textural as this one and the way Ballou makes this band sound is nothing short of amazing. It is lo-fi prog. rock which sounds like it would never work, but ends up marvelously. Touching back on "Golden Dawn" most bands that have lengthy songs tend to using ambience or slower softer sections to help ease the listener through the song, "Golden Dawn" is heavy the entire way through. By heavy though I'm not implying the singer is screaming the entire time or that guitar solos are just extending to nowhere. "Golden Dawn" is heavy because of its sense of urgency, a constantly plodding track that seems like it is constantly building itself for a bigger and better moment. It's bittersweet with emotion and it seems at any moment it could just collapse into an incomprehensible mess of noise. Somehow the track never does though; right as you expect it to collapse, it just ascends back into the original riff that started the song off, aided by a subtle synth part. The track is desolate and seems to represent some kind of poetic description of the apocalypse both lyrically and musically.
"and its only just a matter of time
before we all gotta go underground.
and for whats its worth
they ain't got no drugs down there."
"Paper Tigon" and "And Redemption Fills the Emptiest of Hearts" follow with a less progressive tone, touching more in a post-hardcore realm. "Paper Tigon" is highlighted by a guitar solo that occurs around 2:23. It's further embellished when the synth line plays the exact same progression that the guitar was playing and it builds the album back to the tense nature that we felt during "Golden Dawn". "And Redemption Fills the Emptiest of Hearts" starts off very frantic, but during its bridge breaks into a very melodic and slow paced guitar solo that is a side of Gospel we have not seen up until this point on the record. It helps shift the mood into a more ethereal instrumentally soft atmosphere. Preparing us for the instrumental "Opium" which somewhat acts as a break in the madness that we've heard so far. "What Means of Witchery" starts off with one of the most stereotypical emo build-ups ever. Gospel is clearly wearing the influence of City of Caterpillar and Funeral Diner during the first few minutes of the track. I'm not saying that this makes the introduction to the track bad; it’s probably one of the most well composed portions of the record. What Gospel does with the build up is even more impressive though. While you would expect an explosion of aggression after the build-up it never comes, the drums are pounding, the guitars are drifting and when that point of urgency finally arrives everything goes silent except for a simple drum fill. The track then bursts into what can only be describe as psychedelic. It is probably one of the most interesting and original things I've ever heard on a hardcore record and definitely one of the key points on "The Moon is a Dead World". Screams fly everywhere and more metallic riffing emerges after the psychedelic guitar part helps remind the listener that this is one hell of a heavy band. The song consummates by returning to the original psychedelic line and slowly fading out. The final track "As Far As You Can Throw Me" seems to be the most personal track. It is a dizzying mostly synth based track that seems to work the drummer to his brink. The song certainly brings the record to a close with a very melancholy feel.
"so let's hold this close
and we'll fall back to whats ours
i've got enough pills
to last us both a couple of hours
and we'll count our stars it won't come to soon."
Around the time I picked this record up I made some claim about it being comparable to City of Caterpillar's debut. A record that wouldn't be realized as the classic it was until much later in the future. Well, one thing that certainly evokes City of Caterpillar did happen to Gospel, they broke up after only releasing one album. This has certainly impacted the legacy the group and this does seem like a little known classic. I consider it a perfect record and a bizarrely progressive sound that probably will never have any peers to it’s depressingly, intense sound.
"and so i push y'all away
and i wish you a fast recovery.
all the time wishing clots upon your heart."