Ganon
As Above, So Below


3.5
great

Review

by Nick Greer EMERITUS
November 10th, 2008 | 23 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: More Isis than Isis.

Ganon
As Above, So Below

In a year where heaping piles of hype and praise have been thrown on stoner rock and sludge metal bands, it's easy to forget the sensitive and melodic older sibling, post-metal. Hydra Head, Neurot, and Robotic Empire's tried and true union of post-rock and metal is now out of the critical limelight that is currently being occupied by bands like Torche, Harvey Milk, and Mastodon, who trade in atmospheric production and slow-building crescendos for lower-abdomen screaming and pure, syrupy riffing. Even Akimbo, a post-hardcore band that has always been a kindred spirit of Frodus, Fugazi, and These Arms Are Snakes, put out the album Jersey Shores that has an undeniably heavy, sludge slant. And where are the post-metal champions of yesteryear? Isis is currently recording a new album, but ever since their 2006 release, In the Absence of Truth, have been tied up with a series of side projects, including Caleb Scofield's Zozobra. Neurosis is still riding the wake of Given to the Rising, and in a sad, ironic turn of fate, Pelican was robbed in Rome while seeing the Coliseum. Among items stolen were "a number of personal journals and two portable recording devices containing hours of song ideas that are now lost forever." These unfortunate events leave a gaping hole for a new, opportunistic band to put out a stellar, original post-metal album for the ages.

The best candidate for this opportunity is Ganon, an under-the-radar band from Michigan signed to Acerbic Noise Development. Their 2006 debut LP, In the Dead of Sleep, was a solid album but was dwarfed by the competition. Their sound on that album put them as a straight-shooting member of the post-metal community. At times they were more Isis than Isis in their ability to go from brooding ambiance to heavy pummeling. Also they didn't experiment with the stark weirdness of Neurosis or the major-key melodies of Pelican, so they were ultimately cast as imitators instead of innovators. As Alternative Press succinctly put it, Ganon sounds like "[t]he kind of stuff Neurot and Hydra Head pay their mortgages with." Their follow-up album, poised to change their legacy, couldn't have better timing. However, in many ways they haven't changed their general formula. They still sound like Isis devotees and aren't experimenting in any crazy or weird directions.

Despite their static development and little to no attempt to distance themselves from their influences and previous album, Ganon's As Above, So Below is a better album than their previous one, and is even better than the most recent set of albums offered by the post-metal icons of days' past. The secret to their success? The songwriting is just killer. Unlike the linear quiet to violent ascent of Isis or the constantly shapeshifting passages of Pelican, Ganon find a nice spot between the two. They build up emotionally crushing climaxes, but don't do it in such an obvious, start slow / end big kind of way. However, they don't alter their passages from one section to another in jutting, drastic ways either, pacing the different song sections really well. The best track on the album, "Until First Light," draws its power from an awesome, simplistic core harmonic progression that begins auspiciously in the bass and slowly grows, catching different grooves every time and instrument slightly deviates to a new pattern or idea. Once the track has reached its local maximum from 3:54-4:45, it then uses rhythmic variations in each instrument, all led by the capable drumming, to navigate the song in yet new directions, all under the same initial chord progression, only deviating for a contrasting bridge, which leads us back to the final huge chorus. It's fairly simple and slow to develop, but at every critical inflection point, the song manages to push and pull all of the right strings.

The other tracks, the arguably more complex in song structures and chord progressions, all have the same understanding. They are going to bring mosh at just the right times and take their sweet time getting there. It's typical post-metal but it's deployed elegantly and without flaw. If there's beef to be had, it's with the aforementioned lack of obvious curiosity and experimentation. This problem is rather superficial because good songwriting always trumps artistic intent and progression, however occasionally this imagination deficit bleeds into other elements of the music. For example, the production is a little one-dimensional. There is a ton of beef and low-end to the album, as well as clean-tone bridges that provide a nice dynamic contrast. However, whenever these two sounds overlap, the high-frequency tends to get overtaken by the low end, resulting in a muddiness that mutes the effectiveness of the contrast. I also wish the vocals would branch out a little more. Screaming as a default vocal output is fine if it offers something different than the other instruments, that is, if it gives another texture, counter rhythm, etc. rather than just being a vehicle to convey lyrics. Here, the vocals rarely branch out from typical screaming and are, like many of the high-pitched instrumental parts, subsumed by the overall intensity of the album. Despite these unfortunate pitfalls of Ganon's derivative sound, they have put together an awesome album with As Above, So Below. It's not going to revolutionize the genre, but it's a nice placeholder for both the scene's current absenteeism as well as Ganon's blossoming career.



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user ratings (16)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Thor
November 10th 2008


10242 Comments


The band links seem kinda superfluous to me

Wizard
November 10th 2008


20107 Comments


Great review. Checking these guys out asap. Whats with the In the Absence of Truth hate?

204409
Emeritus
November 10th 2008


3998 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's boring.

taylormemer
November 10th 2008


4960 Comments


The band links seem kinda superfluous to me


I personally like it and also do the same.

What I don't see the point of is the title... I mean it's already there isn't it... just a bit higher.This Message Edited On 11.10.08

rasputin
November 11th 2008


14891 Comments


Sounds good.

PatchworkNeurology
November 11th 2008


352 Comments


Great cd, regardless if it isn't "Original".

204409
Emeritus
November 11th 2008


3998 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ya it's the same way I feel about Light This City and Dead to Me. You don't need to be super artistic and new when you rock this hard.

brandtweathers
November 11th 2008


2006 Comments


yes you do

JumpTheF**kUp
November 11th 2008


2722 Comments


Sounds really good, getting this now.

204409
Emeritus
November 11th 2008


3998 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ya I think a lot of people here would really like this, especially considering a lot of people here are impressed by poop like Gojira and would freak out to actually hear a good metal band once in a while.

Hewitt
November 11th 2008


371 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review, I want to check this out.

jimay333
November 11th 2008


433 Comments


In The Absence of Silence
?

rasputin
November 12th 2008


14891 Comments


So this is pretty good, I haven't really been wowed yet though. However, still have most of the album to go.

lunchforthesky
November 12th 2008


1039 Comments


That opening paragraph must be a new record for name drops to words ratio.

I checked this out, it seemed pretty average stuff.

204409
Emeritus
November 12th 2008


3998 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't understand why name dropping is worth such attention. It's just a way to reference similar music to help locate the reader's understanding of the band's overall sound.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
November 13th 2008


4970 Comments


It's just a little distracting, is all.

Also, Gojira is not poop.

lunchforthesky
November 13th 2008


1039 Comments



I don't understand why name dropping is worth such attention. It's just a way to reference similar music to help locate the reader's understanding of the band's overall sound.


It serves a purpose without a doubt and I understand that you've kind of have to tick the right boxes and beat people over the head a bit on Sputnik to get people to check it out. It just seemed like I was being bombarded by band names in the opening paragraph, when maybe three or four or just referencing genres would have done the job.


Doppelganger
November 15th 2008


3124 Comments


sounds boring but I'll probably check it out anyway

joshuatree
Emeritus
November 15th 2008


3741 Comments


that first paragraph brought on some lols

NortherlyNanook
November 15th 2008


1285 Comments


it wasn't very funny, so i think you're broken.

i think i'll check this out.



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