Review Summary: "The fifth one poured out his bowl on the throne of the wild beast. And its kingdom became darkened, and they began to gnaw their tongues because of their pain..."
I don't care who you are. You could only listen to obscure first-wave black metal demos or free composition jazz from Venezuela, and that's fine. Somewhere down the line though, if you say that you haven't enjoyed a good pop song, you're lying. Catchiness, a semblance of familiarity, easy-listening, a clear song structure; all of these things go into making great pop music. And all of these things are what the vast majority of music listeners initially gravitate towards when first introduced to music. What Gnaw Their Tongues tries to evoke, on the other hand, is an antithesis.
Gnaw Their Tongues is atonal, hard to listen to, strange, and disturbing. And it wants you to feel uneasy, to never know what is lying around that next corner. This uneasiness isn't exactly something that most of us consciously want
to feel, but it's also the feeling that keeps people coming back to this type of music. That is, at the very least, the sentiment with which Gnaw Their Tongues operates. That is music for people who want to be unnerved.
The issue with Gnaw Their Tongues, though, is that much of the material the project has released sounds relatively similar. While this is true of many good bands, it's a particular vice in this sense. With music that relies so much on this feeling of uneasiness and doubt, and of immense atmospheric tension, the first time you hear it hits you the hardest. When talking to people about Gnaw Their Tongues, I've come to expect that any one of the project's albums can be someone's favorite, regardless of critical reception. The thing I've noticed the most about this is that nine times out of ten, their favorite album is the one they heard first.
Thus, with each next album they hear, the feeling of tension and fear wears off, and eventually much of the work will end up sounding stale, even if it would've been terrifying to that same person if they had decided to hear that particular record first. All good artists make adjustments to their sound, though, and now Gnaw Their Tongues is no different with the release of Abyss Of Longing Throats
For all of the hubbub surrounding the violent, primal nature of releases past, this record may seem quite tame in relation. The vocals are higher in the mix, and through all of the textured noise, clearly discernible song structures lie subtly underneath. This is not to say that this record is accessible in any way, but it might just be the projects most accessible anyhow. Sure, there are still eerie samples and an endless supply of monstrous, churning bass, but it's certainly not as haphazard and schizophrenic as usual.
That's what makes this album strange: the sound of the project has quite obviously been stripped down, but as a result, it sounds new and interesting. Rather than just trying to mess with your head, the record lets you appreciate some of the delicacies of the sound that were previously drowned underneath the weight of hellish noises and atrociously disturbing wails. Early on, an example can be found in "Through Flesh", in which the noise is accentuated wonderfully by shrill, biting strings and inharmonious horns.
The title track features violent drumming swamped under a sheet of noise and a drone that sounds similar to a buzzsaw working at half speed. It's of note that this number is as straightforward and uncomplicated as the record gets, and is unconventional for Gnaw Their Tongues because of its relatively conventional sound.
"The Holy Body" bludgeons the listener with drone riffs and tinny drums, while some sort of labored, perverse breathing carries on in the background, the music becoming ever so slightly more deranged as the instruments plod forth. This segues perfectly into the penultimate track, "And They Will Be Cast Out Into Utter Darkness", which is the closest you'll hear Gnaw Their Tongues get to the older sounds of the project.
It's interesting how clearly this track differs from the others, seeing as how its structure is much looser, the vocals and noises tend to layer over themselves, and the air becomes thicker. It's almost as if this is done on purpose, in order to show the distinct contrast between old and new. The closer is a mixture of these sounds. While there is certainly a more discernible structure to the song, the eerie elements remain, especially due to the cold, uninviting strings put into use.
At the end, the listener feels different than after any other Gnaw Their Tongues record. While past releases often left listeners feeling drained and apprehensive, this release leaves the listener feeling a strange sense of satisfied vexation. This serves only to further why this release is different: before, these compositions were alienating, unrelenting, impenetrable, and completely inaccessible. Now, they're more inviting, more accessible, and more understandable.
While simplifying their approach to their music, many bands have often been criticized as losing their edge. There is no such castration with Gnaw Their Tongues. Still as passionate and venomous as ever, Maurice De Jong hasn't lost his edge as much as he's found another route to feed his musical mind into. And for a project which sound was starting to become stale, that can only ever be a good thing.