Review Summary: Menacing, unsettling, threatening.Horrible Chamber
is darkness incarnate, a sonic black hole of droning, pulsing, hopelessness brought to life by vocalist Alan Dubin, one of the evil geniuses behind Khanate
whom were arguably one of the most unnerving and terrifying groups that ever was. Gnaw's debut LP, This Face
was a new experimentation in extremity that was fairly far removed from Dubin's previous endeavors; it saw the incorporation of more industrial influence with less reliance on glacial paces and the blatant disregard for song structure that made Khanate so mystifying and ominous. Without Dubin's former band-mates Stephen O'Malley and James Plotkin the ferocity of this new project seemed to fall flat. The intensity of the droning walls of sounds and the tension built in the silences was gone, everything was more structured and straightforward. This Face
was still a relatively harrowing ride, but that demonic and dangerous feeling that was so in your face and that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach was significantly weaker. However, on their sophomore album Horrible Chamber
, all of the terror, all of the darkness, and all of the sinister conviction that Khanate brought to the table is back in full force and delivered in abundance.
While the similarities to Khanate are absolutely impossible to ignore here, Gnaw firmly hold their own and have a real aptitude for creating genuinely disturbing atmospheres. Gone are the twenty minute 10BPM monoliths and oppressively endless walls of drone, but in their place lies a more direct assault with fiery buzz-saw guitars and a more regulated approach to song structure. There's still tons of hissing, shrieking feedback, ghost-in-the-machine voices, and pummeling waves of noise, but it all feels more calculated and plotted out than the spontaneity shown on the bulk of Khanate's records. So while they may wear their influences a bit too proudly on their sleeves, it's hard to fault them when they share the engine.
Dubin's vocals are as corrosive and scathing as ever on Horrible Chamber
, and again prove to be the standout element of this group but where this project differs from his past material is that musically it stands more strongly on it's own two feet. The music is densely layered, vitriolic, suffocating, and as cold as ice. Few groups sound so threatening and can generate such an authentic feeling of fear as Gnaw do here which serves as their greatest asset. This record just smothers you, it's claustrophobic, hopeless and inescapable; Horrible Chamber
is a truly appropriate title for this work which feels above else, tortured and closed-in. Much of Khanate's discography while atmospherically dark and chilling, felt more expansive, far away and loose whereas Gnaw gets right in your face and doesn't let you get a breath in. Dubin delivers plenty of creepy repetitious one-liners which in context are downright ominous and eerie like the viciously shrieked "time to feed the vulture" on Vulture or the coldly whispered "all ends here" on the closing title-track.
is just a hideous juggernaut or aural evil that is the musical equivalent to venom coursing through your veins. It's paralyzing, numbing and relentless in its approach and never lets in a sliver of hope. Put your headphones on, turn off the lights, crank the volume to 11 and let yourself spiral into the abyss.