Review Summary: Comme un bon Bordeaux
Of the technical death metal legions that emerged in the wake of the new millennium, Gorod is arguably among the most relevant and influential to come out of the old continent. Formed in southern France in 1997 as Gorgasm, the French tech engineers, like many of their peers at the time such as Necrophagist or Spawn of Possession, initially incorporated brutal death metal elements into their techy formula, which, seemingly irrelevant, shaped their personality and approach to the genre. But unlike their German contemporaries, whose style was characterized by its methodical and neoclassical character, Gorod displayed a more sensual and melodic output from very early on, much due to the unmistakable style of guitarist and main composer Mathieu Pascal. The charming yet complex harmonies and spirited Latin overlay that occasionally peeks out from Mathieu's three-dimensional sound palette are distinctive features that set Gorod apart from the rest of the pack. While Muhammed Suiçmez invites the listener to a neoclassical feast of putrid flesh, Mathieu and the boys offer a Bordeaux wine of gentle fragrance and delicate flavor on the palate. Gastronomic preferences aside, Gorod's portfolio is beyond reproach, both technically and musically, featuring some of the best and most inspiring moments the genre has ever seen.
In contrast to Aethra
whose concept revolved around the moon, The Orb
orbits the sun, drawing additional inspiration from the dystopian novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, one of vocalist-lyricist Julien Deyres' favorite authors. Although, as far as I can tell, there's no deeply conceptual narrative surrounding the songs, there is an invisible thread connecting them, a common ground that underpins nine tracks with very distinct personalities. I'll even go so far as to say The Orb
feels like a collection of singles created over a relatively long period of time. While this adds some variety, it also makes it feel more scattered and less cohesive, unlike previous albums. 'Strange Days', originally written by The Doors, is the one that strays furthest from orbit, feeling out of place aesthetically. Although some contrast was to be expected for obvious reasons, Gorod's artsy rendition isn't the most imaginative, either instrumentally or vocally. Aside from its unpredictability and audacious spirit, the cover adds no value to the whole and would have been better left as a bonus feature. The dissonant tremolo on the slow-paced 'Waltz Of Shades' or the retro synth in the title track, on the other hand, add some contrast without detracting from the overall aesthetic. The latter is not only the album's catchiest song but also one of the band's most accessible compositions to date. A more user-friendly trend that has accompanied Gorod's music since A Perfect Absolution
, which I consider the collective's creative peak. In this sense, The Orb
follows the same road while recapturing the formulas of Leading Vision
, Process of a New Decline
, and the aforementioned fourth album. The opener, 'Chrematheism', for example, which mirrors the band's heavier side, wouldn't feel out of place on Leading Vision
or its follow-up, and a song like 'We Are The Sun Gods' would look great on A Perfect Absolution
. As if the lads were serving the same menu in a more accessible, affordable combo.
As expected, Gorod's trademark groove and Latin overlay are still very much present, climaxing in the sexy middle section of 'We Are The Sun Gods,' which invites us to dance to the sound of Latin rhythms alongside some imaginary tropical crowd wearing Archspire t-shirts. 'Breeding Silence' is another song that showcases this Latin vibe, blending it with more overpowering textures in a cocktail that somehow represents Gorod's DNA and their unique approach to the genre. 'Savitri' and the first single, 'Victory', also deserve a few words for different reasons: the former for including an ending section that is among the album's most iconic moments and the latter for its frenetic and more straightforward character that exposes Gorod's rawer side; it also has the particularity of featuring a riff by vocalist Julien Deyres, which is noteworthy given that songwriting is usually left entirely to Mathieu. It is important to stress that, despite Mathieu Pascal's key role, the importance of the remaining lineup should not be overlooked, as each of them plays a vital role in Gorod's output, being instrumental parts of the machine. Among the well-oiled gears is longtime bassist Benoit Claus, who adds depth and complexity to the music with intricate basslines that complement the guitars in a synergistic interaction, helping to create the band's distinctive signature sound.
Like a fine Bordeaux, Gorod's seventh chapter captures the flavors of a rich past, bringing together the sounds and fragrances of a history full of stories, bottling them with a more attractive and accessible label. While it is up to you to decide whether this is the lads' best vintage to date, I'd say its distinct and sophisticated taste remains largely satisfying.