Review Summary: Despite an inability for Aethra’s tracks to shine individually, Gorod may have just unveiled their opus.
Gorod have always sat on the cusp of something else. Whether it be the jazz stylings of their self-evolving technical death metal or the band’s ability to meld accessibility into a genre haphazardly known for pushing it as far as the limits would take it. For this reason, the usual cop-outs apply. Aethra
is not for everyone, but it’s more a continuation of the band’s previous sounds wrapped into a succinct and accessible forty four minute testament to listenable tech-death.
This time around the band have stayed on the same textual paths as some of their previous releases (namely in all things lunar and godly) without too much deviation from the likes of 2015s, A Maze Of Recycled Creeds
. The mythos Gorod uses is strong, yet cleverly subdued in its delivery, preventing it from outweighing the technical proficiency in songwriting. It’s these features that maintains the band’s modern accessibility, ensnaring the album’s listeners in a weave of spidery jazz laced death metal, without a need to force a few million notes per second down the awaiting throats of the listener.
As the album moves forward it becomes undeniably clear; Aethra
is catchy. The frenetic progressive core that holds the band’s music together has come together with actual, organic songwriting in mind. That’s not to say that these French metallers have forgotten how to blast and noodle their way through devastating compositions, rather in continuity with their last couple of releases, Aethra
scales down the incessant wankery and takes the furor into an ambitiously impressive slab. The album’s beginnings in “Wolfsmond” are peremptory, but only slightly. Deyres’s vocal punch boasts a continuing depth, cutting through a wall of stereotypes done well. It’s a theme that continues on both “Bekhten’s Curse” and the album’s titular track. There’s no ‘one speed’ that defines how Gorod make their music, constantly moving into sensational thematic grooves and blistering displays of musicianship. Smatterings of spoken word, move seamlessly into Aethra
’s ideals making the propaganda styling of “Bekhten’s Curse” a welcome change from what can only be considered Gorod’s norm.
While the progressive stylings of Gorod’s musical soundscape may sound stock standard to both new and older fans, it’s the album’s title track that again lifts the bar. Yes, it’s completely Gorod… but I can’t help but think the dynamic display borders somewhere between the titanic approach of fellow Frenchmen Gojira and the psychedelic Crack The Skye
ala Mastodon. The result is irksome, but only because it works so well.
From here, listeners can be forgiven for some slight melding forgetfulness of tracks. Each track does stand alone, but the vehemence of “The Sentry”’s riffs placate those looking for a modern take on the old school sounds. Blast beats and growls dominate the latter half of the album’s run time, leaving very little room to breathe. The overbearance isn’t of direct fault of Gorod, but rather a genre’s pressure to lift and overachieve on the foundations that exist only to hold it loftily over “lesser” beings. It’s a gripe found in the most minimalist of issues, but not small enough to be ignored completely.
There’s a lot of credit to be found for an album that is as accessible as it is other-worldly monolithic. Any measure of hyperbole can be used to describe Aethra
’s core of sounds but it comes down to a balanced mixing (which even includes some very audible bass work) and a band just hitting their songwriting stride. By combining the band’s past and present, Gorod have managed to stand above the genre’s middling mediocrity and release an album that will define the band for many years to come.