It’s been three years since French tech death geniuses Gorod dropped the masterful A Perfect Absolution on the unsuspecting public, boasting a newly refined sound to match their then-fresh lineup. While influences from music well outside of the tech death spectrum had sometimes creeped into their music as early as sophomore record Leading Vision, 2011’s Transcendence EP saw Gorod at their most daring till that point, and then A Perfect Absolution‘s frequent dabbling in everything from funk to samba in its massively catchy riffs brought the band to another level of well-crafted experimentation entirely. It’s safe to say that at this point in time, there is no tech death band on the planet that puts together varied yet memorable passages like Gorod — and thus the stage is set for their fifth effort, an eleven-track opus with the mouthful of a title that is A Maze of Recycled Creeds.
Creeds largely sticks to the formula from the previous record, in that the band wastes no time in exploding into their trademark tight-knit yet highly tasteful brand of tech death, with catchy hooks to be found left and right amid the chaos. The riffs on are punishing, groovy, and absolutely all over the place in the best way possible, turning into funk jams at the drop of a hat (“From Passion to Holiness”) or exploding over a flurry of blast beats (“Celestial Nature”) before said hat has barely settled on the ground. Vocalist Julien Deyres’ delivery is even more varied than on A Perfect Absolution, and it’s clear that he has well and truly settled into his new role, while new drummer Karol Diers fills the large shoes left by groove maniac Sam Santiago with aplomb on his first Gorod record. But the best thing about Creeds‘ extensive passages is how colourful and memorable they are; supported as always by Benoit Claus’ phenomenally tight bass playing, lead guitarist Mat Pascal less shreds and more paints with his lines, and the amount of tasteful leads scattered across the album courtesy of him as well as second guitarist Nicolas Alberny is completely dizzying to say the least.
The conceptual basis of the album centres around late-19th century mystical orders and the various beliefs they promoted, and Deyres’ lyrics, when decipherable — this is death metal, after all — are fairly complex and hint towards a much larger story, even if it has yet to be completely apparent. Considering tech death has not seen many concept albums in recent memory save for maybe Obscura’s Omnivium with its brilliant songwriting , it’s exciting to see another record enter that fold — that being said, Creeds‘ backstory is unfortunately not quite as gripping on the surface as that of A Perfect Absolution, whose positively brutal (and historically accurate) tale of a widowed 10th century Slavic queen violently avenging the murder of her husband at the hands of a pagan tribe was vividly brought to life by that album’s meticulous songwriting. Perhaps Creeds will make more sense with repeated visits or further explanation from the band, but otherwise its concept is sadly not as accessible or interesting to the listener as it possibly could have been.
That being said, Deyres’ excellent and varied vocal delivery alongside basically everything else about the songs themselves redeems Creeds quite sufficiently, even if the songs do initially seem to take more time sinking in than on prior Gorod albums. Whether this is a detriment or a boon is hard to say. Some may enjoy that even more time is spent playing around with highly intricate musical ideas and incorporating extended jams (even if there is nothing to completely match the absolutely majestic midsections of “Disavow Your God” and “Carved in the Wind”, alas) while others may have wanted a more in-your-face sound, but it remains that the material on its own terms is excellently put together, and that there is definitely something in here for any fan of tech death or guitar playing in general. Plus, “Celestial Nature” is probably one of the best things the genre has ever seen, and apparently the band is well aware of that considering they’ve tacked on a two-minute harmonized twin-guitar rendition of the song at the end of the album. Sometimes it’s the little things.
In short, Gorod have done it again. No matter what one’s opinion of the concept may be, A Maze of Recycled Creeds easily stands as the best tech death release of the year thus far by what is frankly a ridiculous margin. The band’s highly diverse mix of influences — and their boundless ability to combine all of them together this succinctly — makes for an incredible listening experience, and one not to be missed by any fan of tastefully written heavy music.
Gorod’s A Maze of Recycled Creeds gets…