Monday, April 18, 2016

Album Review: Gypsy Chief Goliath - "Citizens of Nowhere"

One of the fundamental problems with genre labels is that they leave very little room for interpretation and flexibility.  By this point, the metalverse has more or less worked out what each of its three hundred thousand or so subgenres should sound like, and anytime somebody doesn’t fit the mold, they’re simply assigned a new genre label.  The manic scramble to label that which we haven’t heard before could probably be classified as an obsessive compulsive disorder, if you really look at it objectively.  Which brings us to Gypsy Chief Goliath, the Canadian stoner metal band that is more than just typical stoner metal fare.  The band and their new release “Citizens of Nowhere” blends and weaves Type O Negative, Clutch, and Kyuss with maybe, just maybe, a little Candlemass sprinkled in there for atmosphere.  It’s an expansive journey that stays on point without holding back.

There’s a certain vein of malice running through the circulatory system of “Citizens of Nowhere,” one that is capably real and ably portrayed by the musicians.  We’ve seen bands like Midnight Ghost Train or Black Wizard take on dour tones in the past, but they have difficulty holding and selling it within their natural blues structure.  Gypsy Chief Goliath, by contrast, wallows in the entangling mud of deep tones and vocals growls to lend an air of malice into a genre that is too often placated with wisps and flights of hallucinogen-induced fancy.  Sure, “Holding Grace” has some light-hearted tones, but the stark main riff helps create a little bit of ominous discord, while the vocal delivery combines the most enthusiastic parts of Viking Skull and Orange Goblin.

Where GCG excels is in patience.  “Citizens of Nowhere” is a premier exhibition in craft, taking its time and never rushing to a conclusion too early.  The album lets the tension build, whether in the grime-soaked halls of “Odyssey” or the otherworldly deep construction of “Elephant in the Room”.  Harmonica or no harmonica, “Black Samurai” is a thick plodder that absolutely refuses to budge more than it has to, but instead uses every part of its six minutes to its advantage, sewing in a blues-y guitar solo and some tidal rocking.  For a band that is capable of showing as much bite as this band is, the ability to let the songs either breathe or brood is a huge advantage over many of their contemporaries.

The one thing worth mentioning is concerning Gypsy Chief Goliath is that stoner metal purists may find themselves wishing that the band would use their melodic aptitude more to their advantage.  To call the band ‘stoner metal’ is accurate only to a point (not that the labels matter a whole heck of a lot,) because the band insists on using a more violent edge within their analog sound.  Academically that’s very interesting, but from a listening standpoint it sounds occasionally disconcerting.  GCG teeters precariously on the line between threatening and soulful which can make for a challenging listen if the goal is to simply space out and let the warm tones flow through you.

Overall, more good than bad here.  Substantially more.  Gypsy Chief Goliath does a lot of things right, even if their concoction is occasionally confusing in direction and intent.  “Citizens of Nowhere” is an enjoyable and dynamic listen, particularly for fans who are inclined into this style of music.  It’s not just your father’s stoner metal anymore.

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